Solar powering coming to Waterville

Next year, residential areas in Waterville could be powered by solar energy as the town has become the next target for small-scale installations of residential solar electric systems.

Sustain Mid Maine Coalition is a local grassroots group that seeks to sustain Mid-Maine’s healthy environment and promote economic prosperity in the region. Part of the group’s mission is to connect Maine residents with energy from local, renewable resources. Its plan to install solar electric systems in Waterville is part of a larger scale initiative called Solarize Mid Maine, which will also target the towns of Unity, Winslow, Vassalboro, Oakland, Belgrade, Benton, and Fairfield.

The goal is to gather residents and small businesses from across Mid-Maine into a group that can get bulk discount prices on solar electric systems. However, the project can only be successful if enough people are interested in the cause.

In Maine there are no government incentives or rebates to lower the price of solar panels. Residents must rely on a 30 percent federal tax credit when looking for solar incentives, but this credit will drop ten percent by the end of 2016. This is why initiatives like Solarize Mid Maine have been popping up around Maine— time is running short.

Last year in Freeport, a similar project was able to gather about 40 households to make a bulk purchase from a solar company called Insource Renew- ables. The customers ended up saving between ten and twelve percent on their new solar power system, which is very effective when the prices of solar energy systems are so high.

However, the Freeport initiative was on a much smaller scale than Solarize Mid Maine Leader of the project, John Reuthe, says that he wants to organize at least 400 people requesting any pro- posals. So far, only 80 people have decided to take part.

It is important to focus on the Mid-Maine area, where residents are less likely to be able to afford solar energy systems than those in Freeport and other New England states. In those areas, the solar movement has gained quite a bit of momentum and even small solar farms have sprung up around Maine, like in Wayne and South Paris.

Solarize Mid Maine will work to keep this trend going by gathering a solid group of customers from eight communities. If it’s successful, the group will open up for people living in other communities.

Response to similar projects in Maine and other states has been impressive, and more and more communities seem to be catching on. Solarize Mid Maine’s first information session took place at Colby, and more than 70 people attended. More meetings will be held in Waterville and the rest of Mid-Maine over the next few months in order to reach a conclusion.