HEBRON — Hebron Academy has installed the largest rooftop solar array in Maine and school officials say they are not stopping there.

The goal is to make the campus “net zero,” meaning the total amount of energy used annually is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created.

A total of 970 solar electric panels have been installed on the roof of the Athletic Center by ReVision Energy of Portland.

Company co-founder Paul Coupe said the panels will produce more than 300,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year while eliminating more than 300,000 pounds of carbon pollution from fossil-fuel power plants.

Over their 40-year lifespan, the panels will prevent more than 10 million pounds of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere, Coupe said.

“To date, we have designed additional rooftop solar arrays for Robinson Arena and the school’s maintenance facility, as well as a potential large, ground-mounted array, but none of these projects are active at present,” he said.

Coupe told academy officials and others gathered for an informal dedication of the Athletic Center solar project recently that the school’s commitment to clean, renewable solar energy is “bold” and “trailblazing.”

“Although Maine currently has the highest per-capita carbon emissions in New England, Hebron Academy’s solar project and its leadership on the clean energy transition are powerful examples of renewable energy’s tremendous potential to create jobs, reduce energy costs and protect our pristine natural environment for present and future generations,” he said.

School officials declined to discuss the cost of the project, but Lissa Gumprecht, marketing and communications manager at the academy, issued a statement saying, “The construction of the solar array was made possible through a power purchase agreement with ReVision Energy. This allows the academy, a nonprofit organization, to gain the same benefits of clean solar energy that many traditional businesses enjoy. The solar array is a long-term investment in sustainability.”

While some may question how Maine has enough sunshine to power such projects, Coupe said Maine gets 30 percent more sunshine per year than Germany, the world leader in solar energy adoption.

The Oxford Hills region can boast other firsts in solar projects. Fairwinds Farm at 346 Skeetfield Road has the state’s first AllSun tracker installed in 2012 by ReVision Energy. The tracker is 20 feet wide and 22 feet tall, and its 20 panels each have a 240-watt capacity. It provides 40 to 50 percent more power than a stationary panel mounted on a rooftop.

Owners David and Cathy Knightly said at the time they expected 40 to 50 years of use from the system that cost about $35,000. With state and federal assistance, the Knightlys said they expect it to pay for itself in 10 to 12 years.

In 2014, Norway put an electric car-charging station downtown. It was the second of its kind in Oxford County, and believed to be the first run by a municipality in the state, according to CEBE Executive Director Scott Vlaun.

In 2013, Mt. Abram ski resort officials in Greenwood began a green initiative, including the installation of an 803 solar panel project, which gave the resort 75 percent of its power from the sun. Mt. Abram is also home to an electric vehicle charging station, cooking oil recycling practices, a wood pellet boiler to help heat the mountain’s buildings and airless snow guns. Officials hope to expand their solar capacity to cover 100 percent of its electricity usage.

In the state’s 2015 update of Maine’s Comprehensive Energy Plan, Patrick Woodcock, then-director of the Governor’s Energy Office, said Maine continues to be a leader in the country with renewable energy production.

“In 2012, Maine generated 54 percent of its electricity from renewable resources and has had strong growth in the use of wood energy for thermal applications,” he wrote. “Much of the recent growth in the electrical sector has been driven from New England’s renewable portfolio standard, the federal production tax credit, and Maine’s wind energy resource. Maine’s renewable energy credit prices have fallen significantly, and, without policy changes, renewable energy credits will unlikely be a primary reason for pursuing renewable investment in Maine.”

Among the recommendations regarding renewable energy in the 85-page report is that the state continue its current efforts to increase energy efficiency, and replace higher-emitting energy sources with renewable energy sources and low carbon-emitting natural gas.

It also recommends Maine re-evaluate all its renewable energy programs, and develop a simplified, integrated, inclusive, renewable energy policy, which is aligned toward the state’s greatest challenges — reducing electricity costs for Maine businesses and lowering total energy costs for Maine households.

Angela Monroe, acting director of the Governor’s Energy Office, said the administration supports but does not favor the use of any particular renewable energy source.

“The governor and the GEO are supportive of energy resources that lower energy costs to Mainers and do not harm the environment but do not favor any particular resource over another,” she said.

[email protected]

 


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: