PORTLAND — With our cold climate, some might assume Maine isn’t a great place for solar electricity production. But Maine has “tremendous” potential for solar power, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

A solar panel in southern Maine produces the same amount of electricity as one in Houston, and slightly less than ones in Miami and Savannah, according to the NRCM’s web page on solar energy.

Maine’s weather is cold, but Maine’s latitude is between 43 and 47 degrees, halfway between the equator and North Pole. Southern Maine’s latitude is about the same as Monaco on the French Riviera, points out Phil Coupe, co-founder of ReVision Energy, a Maine-New Hampshire-Massachusetts company that has installed solar panels since 2003.

Because of our latitude, and cool climate, Maine is a strong solar resource, Coupe said, explaining that solar panels are the most efficient in cooler temperatures.

“During this time of year, when the sun is bright and it’s cold, 40s and 50s, the solar technology is at maximum efficiency,” Coupe said. “Another way to characterize it is our annual solar resource is about 10 percent less per year than Florida.”

The heat and humidity that hits climates like Houston affect the efficiency of the technology, he said. “These facts don’t come from me, they come from the Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory.”

In Maine only a small number of buildings, between 3,000 and 4,000, have solar panels, Coupe estimated. Maine homes alone number about 525,000.

Environmentalists are hoping to grow that number. Solar legislation passed last year by Maine lawmakers, L.D. 1711, allows up to 200 participants to be part of a solar farm, up from nine participants. The new law will encourage more community solar projects, said Sophie Janeway, Climate and Clean Energy Outreach coordinator for NRCM.

“Through community solar, more Mainers can enjoy the benefits of solar whether they rent, don’t have space on their roof or can’t afford the upfront costs.”

That would help reduce Maine’s use of fossil fuel, which contributes to climate-changing pollution and global warming that’s causing more tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts and floods.

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