From left, Topsham Energy Committee Members: Yvette Meunier, John Berry, Kate Burch (Topsham Assistant Planner), Jenn Curtis and daughter Avery Pierce, Victor Langelo, Nick Whatley, and Jared Entwistle. Photo contributed by Kate Burch.

Topsham is the first town in Maine to receive recognition from the national SolSmart Program, acknowledging Topsham for encouraging solar development.

“Topsham evaluated local planning, zoning and permitting processes with clear goals to recognize the local landscape and provide specific performance standards for solar energy systems. These actions will benefit property owners and encourage solar energy growth in the area,” according to a May 9 news release.

SolSmart, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, was established in 2016 and is led by the International City/County Management Association and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. With over 450 designees and representing over 170 million people nationwide, SolSmart hopes to make solar energy faster, easier and more affordable for local governments and regional organizations, according to its website.

“We are excited to see our efforts to support smart solar development in Topsham recognized by industry experts,” said Yvette Meunier, Topsham Energy Committee chair.

In 2020, Topsham adopted the Solar Energy Conversion Systems Ordinance, enabling the use of solar energy without harming natural and working lands.

With the hope of lowering municipal electric bills, saving taxpayer dollars, reducing the town’s carbon footprint, and keeping the energy economy local, Topsham pursued solar energy sources.

Topsham’s Assistant Planner Kate Burch said that the town’s ordinance will be used as an example in the Maine Farmland Trust in an upcoming revision. She said Topsham’s ordinance includes mitigation fees to discourage anyone from placing solar farms on high quality land and habitat.

Topsham municipal buildings are currently powered by offsite solar, while Mount Ararat High School in Topsham, is powered by rooftop solar panels.

“The town has always been interested in ways to better manage funds, reduce energy consumption, and support local initiatives,” Topsham Planning Director Rod Melanson said.

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