Tag Archive for: solar power

OPINION: Until asked, solar company will not offer anything (Vassalboro)


by Jerry Hill
Vassalboro resident

The Maine Street Maine Coalition presents a fresh look at the current situation regarding Solar Inc. and the Vassalboro Site Planning – Solar Ordinance.

The community, landowners, and town representatives must demand that this unknown guest coming to live large in this house, having the expectation of being here beyond most of our lives, – to stay for decades – should arrive with a thankful heart and a gift for Vassalboro.

This community has an expectation – solar farms will be a contributing asset to the community. They must become a part of the larger family as a corporate citizen.

The rules of the “house” must be stated upfront. Until the “ask”, Solar Inc. will not offer anything for the community. Solar Inc. should show respect and arrive overflowing with gratitude for being allowed into this house and ecosystem.

The “Ask”

A board member asked, “What is solar doing for the town?” Consider the following answer: the solar farm has a buffer between the power plant and outer edge. That buffer is not used by the solar farm. The buffer is not available for other commercial use. The buffer should be made available to and for the community. The town should insist on using the property.

The buffer is 50 feet wide. The 50 feet could contain a rest area for passing snow mobiles. Ask for a food forest of blueberry and apple trees. Ask for a playground with a firepit and picnic tables. Ask for a charging station for electric ATVs. Ask for a dog park. People would appreciate an exercise circuit.

Result of “the ask” is a mini park is created for now and for future children. Elderberry might like a place to sit-down in the shade for a nap. Choose to opt-out of chain-link fence and three rows of trees.

It is our responsibility to help the solar industry become an even better citizen.

It is the Ask. Chicago style – a favor for a favor.

Expanding on the concept.

The complete buffer at each solar farm will be accessible to Vassalboro residents via the solar plant access road. Liability insurance is the responsibility of the solar park owner. Security cameras are included as are trash cans and porta-potties. Each 50-foot buffer access will be accompanied by a $25,000 allowance to be used toward improvements administered by Vassalboro’s Parks and Trails budget.

A 12’x12’ (+/-) gazebo shelter will be constructed with a picnic table, plus a charging station. A dog socialization lot will be provided. The mini park will be designed by a resident group and overseen by the Parks Committee for each solar park.

That is the “ASK”. Mini parks. Wonderful destinations for families.

Additional ideas include: an oasis for snowmobiles, a place for healing, a wildlife viewing stand. Places for: a garden, flowers, benches, meditation, a safe place to walk with a loved one (the dog). The buffer is really a part of the Vassalboro Park system for the “ASK”. “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” W. Dyer

Where is the quid pro quo?

A question proposed by a board member has not been addressed – “What is the contribution of solar farms to our community?” Question answered.

A 13-year-old once said “If I don’t ask, I don’t get.”

The action of writing this concept into the ordinance is for all the right reasons.

This ecosystem matters.

VASSALBORO: About a dozen turn out for solar power presentation

by Mary Grow

About a dozen residents of Vassalboro and nearby towns turned out for a Jan. 24 discussion of solar power with Rep. Richard Bradstreet and Sen. Roger Katz.

Discussion focused on legislative bills, originally LD 1686 and after a Jan. 24 work session LD 1444, dealing with what everyone agreed are complicated issues involving solar power in Maine.

LD 1444, “An Act Regarding Large-scale Community Solar Procurement,” sponsored by Sen. David Woodsome, directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to promote community solar development. The closest local example is the planned solar array at 3 Level Farm on Vassalboro Road in South China.

At the Vassalboro meeting Todd Martin, of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, summarized three additional provisions that he expects will be added to LD 1444:

  • Preventing the PUC from taxing rooftop solar production used by homeowners that doesn’t go into the grid (he compared the proposed tax, which he said will take effect unless the legislature acts, to a grocery store taxing customers who eat tomatoes grown in their gardens instead of store-bought tomatoes).
  • Increasing the maximum number of participants in a community solar project from 10 to 50.
  • Directing the PUC to make no changes in net metering, the billing system applicable to people who generate solar power into the grid for credit against power they draw from the grid at night and on cloudy days, until 2020.

The bill, Martin said, would save money for all electricity consumers, whether or not they choose to rely partly on home-based or community solar generation.

Martin and audience members said Central Maine Power Company (CMP) is a business whose owners want to encourage more transmission lines, the source of their income, and therefore promote electricity consumption and discourage local production. Martin said the company gets a 12 percent return on its investment in wires and poles.

CMP does not generate any electricity, since production and distribution were legislatively separated in Maine late in the 20th century. The separation, Winslow resident Peter Garrett commented, gives CMP leaders a very different perspective from utility executives in Vermont, who try to reduce consumption and promote solar and other small-scale forms of generation.

One result of the difference is that Vermont is a leader in solar energy in New England and Maine is the laggard.

In general, Martin and others said, Maine Democratic legislators support solar energy, as do many Republican Senators; opposition comes primarily from House Republicans. Last year, both Bradstreet and Katz supported a pro-solar bill; Bradstreet did not vote to override Governor Paul LePage’s veto of the measure.

An audience member asked Katz how she could argue in favor of solar energy without sounding like a “left-wing radical.”

Points he offered included: every form of energy has a subsidy, so solar is not unique; Maine people pride themselves on self-reliance, and solar installation prices have come down enough so it is no longer only for the rich; installing solar panels creates jobs; and when most of the country promotes solar energy, why should Maine be left behind?

Martin added that the solar industry lets young college graduates find jobs in Maine, for example with ReVision Energy, in Liberty and Portland; and undoing disincentives for solar energy encourages a free market in energy, a point that should appeal to Republicans.

The solar energy discussion was held in Vassalboro Friends Meeting House, which is heated almost entirely by heat pumps and solar panels.