Workers install solar panels on a roof. PHOTO COURTESY OF REVISION ENERGY

Investors on board for community solar

BAR HARBOR — ReVision Energy is in talks with six households so far about investing in a proposed Community Solar Farm (CSF) to be sited at the public works facility off the Crooked Road, representative John Luft said. Many of those were in attendance at a Sept. 17 presentation in town council chambers about the project and CSFs in general. The solar business aims to sell nine shares in the project by mid-October in order to begin construction in November.

The investors would form a mutual benefit nonprofit corporation that would own and manage the project. “The CSF project allows shared ownership of a single solar array using virtual net metering,” according to materials, meaning electricity used by each member household is measured against their share of output from the CSF. The association would be liable for annual inspection, maintenance, insurance and lease payment to the town of a few hundred dollars per share per year. Sales of renewable energy credits are expected to cover most of these expenses.

A share in the CSF is estimated to cost $23,157. Net cost after a cash discount from Emera and a 30 percent federal tax credit would be $16,210, according to Luft. The proposed configuration is based on a 5.5-kilowatt solar system generating 7,000 kilowatt hours per year. Luft estimated a $26,417 savings over 25 years for each investor with current projections of future energy costs.

The tax credit is currently set to expire at the end of 2016. Lots of projects are likely to be built before then, Town Councilor Gary Friedmann said Friday. “They’re expecting a stampede.”

ReVision also is offering an in-house financing option, which includes a loan at no interest for the portion of the cost covered by the tax credit, and a loan at 2.9 percent interest for the rest. They estimate a $160 per month payment for 12 years. Some homeowners may be able to finance the purchase at lower cost with a home equity loan, Luft said.

When a warrant article allowing long-term leases of town property for CSFs passed in June, much of the debate centered on how the nine households involved in the project would be chosen.

If more than nine people were seriously interested, Friedmann said, a lottery would likely be held to choose nine. “I talked about it with [Town Manager] Cornell Knight. That’s kind of the consensus as to what we would do.”

Friedman doesn’t think a lottery will be necessary. “I don’t think we’re going to be oversubscribed for this first one,” he said. “It’s such a new idea.”

This CSF would be the first in the territory of power company Emera Maine, though not the first in Maine. While the virtual net metering would allow anyone on the Emera system to participate, the warrant article specified the owners should be “local residents.” Friedmann takes that to mean residents of Bar Harbor, since the project is set to be sited on town property. They haven’t yet worked out legal details for contingencies, such as whether ownership would be transferred if a property is sold or a shareholder moves away.

“John was very straightforward with people that this isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone,” Friedmann said. “If your own roof or land is appropriate for a solar array, it may be a better payoff.”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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