GREENWOOD — At a Greenwood Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, Feb. 15, lightbulbs went off as the board reacted positively to a pitch from a community solar sharing company that could save the town a guaranteed 15%  on future electricity bills.

Kay Mann, community outreach director for Powermarket Maine, spoke Tuesday about the community solar company that currently has four operational solar farms in Maine, with a fifth slated to become operational in April.

The basics of the operation? According to Powermarkets website, as the solar farms produce energy, the amount of electricity generated is put on a utility bill in the form of a credit, deducting it from the amount owed to the utility. Instead of paying the utility, Powermarket is paid at a discounted rate.

“You’re paying for less power from the utility. Instead of paying the developer who put the solar panels on your roof to put them up, you’re paying the community solar farm operators in little bits each month instead of making one big investment,” said Mann.

Initially, Selectman Normand Millard was skeptical. He stated that received many of these flyers for different solar projects, and the one thing they had in common was a lack of price point transparency.

“There’s a similarity in all of them that they do not tell the consumer what is the price per kilowatt hour,” said Millard.


“It’s the same promotional gimmick that all of these solar projects are promoting to consumers. If the consumer has no ability to make the determination on whether or not to switch because they don’t have enough information, why would anybody switch?”

But according to Mann, kilowatt hour price is largely irrelevant in this subscription based model, as the aim isn’t to pay the suppliers of the electricity, but to reduce the amount of kilowatt hours CMP bills each month.

“ It just means you’re signing up to get a portion of the power from a given solar farm allocated for your usage and to reduce your bill,” said Mann.

“That’s the difference between this and other community solar farm models you may have heard of in which you are buying an ownership share, when you’re buying something and paying upfront it’s like buying a condo … this [model] is like renting a condo. Someone else buys it, builds it, and pays for it and you just move in and enjoy it and pay a monthly rent,” said Mann.

If the town should opt in to the solar sharing, there would be no upfront cost, and the town would be able to cancel with no penalty after 60 days.

“So, what’s the downside?” Town Manager Kimberly Sparks asked Mann.

“You don’t own it, you don’t build any equity in it, and it’s not necessarily a hedge against rate increases … the rate that Powermarket charges will increase with any changes given to us as a group of utility customers,” Mann said

According to Sparks, the only thing that Powermarket wouldn’t cover in the town was the streetlights. The Board didn’t take any action on Tuesday, but Sparks stated she would be in touch with Mann regarding next steps in the next few days.

“If we did nothing, our rates would increase because they always do, and we would pay 100% of our bill … if we subscribe (to the solar farm) we would get a 15% discount guaranteed … I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t do it.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: