By Kenneth Colburn
The impacts of climate change are now bearing down upon us; we now have less than 10 years to reduce carbon emissions enough to mitigate its worst effects. Fortunately, Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island’s other towns have recognized the need for urgent action.
In November 2019, the town of Bar Harbor declared a climate emergency and established a Climate Emergency Task Force. A year later, in December of 2020, the Bar Harbor Town Council adopted the Task Force’s recommended goals. One of these goals was to develop a town-owned solar array on the old Higgins Pit lot. This project merits your support at Bar Harbor’s upcoming town meeting.
Over the last 18 months, the town has been working with A Climate to Thrive to assess the costs and benefits of the Higgins Pit solar project. Solar projects are being proposed all across Maine, but mostly by outside investors and developers – not Maine towns. In contrast, the Higgins Pit solar project will be locally owned by Bar Harbor, benefiting all taxpayers by reducing the town’s energy costs. Like individual homeowners, when communities own a solar array, they reap – and keep – all the financial and clean energy benefits. Investor-owned projects may offer some savings on energy bills, but most of the financial benefit leaves the community. Equally important, the town controls how the project gets done. Investor-owned projects rarely involve town residents in the development, construction, outreach or other important aspects, and they do little to build equity for the town.
Following best practices recommended by Maine Audubon, the Higgins Pit solar project has been sited on town property historically used as a gravel pit before being used as a dumping ground for construction waste and sewerage sludge until the 1970s. It may even have PFAS (“forever chemical”) contamination. Since the 1970s, the lot has gone unused. A 2021 feasibility study showed that the site was unsuitable for housing but could support a solar array big enough to power all the electricity needs of Bar Harbor’s municipal buildings, saving the town millions of dollars over the project’s lifetime.
Approval of the Higgins Pit solar project will be on the Town Warrant as Article R and has been unanimously recommended by both Bar Harbor’s Town Council and its Warrant Committee. I encourage all Bar Harbor residents to join me at town meeting at 6 p.m. on June 7 in the Conners Emerson School gymnasium to vote in favor of this project.
With the Higgins Pit solar project, Bar Harbor will join Tremont, Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor in going with locally owned solar power. Locally owned, responsibly sited clean energy for Bar Harbor will show we mean business when it comes to our town’s operating costs (and our wallets) as well as climate change and sustainability.
Kenneth Colburn lives in Bar Harbor.