Scott Vlaun, left, executive director for the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy and Sarah Carter, right, of Norway’s Select Board cut the ribbon in 2023 to launch operations of the Norway Community Solar Farm, a projected dedicated to alleviating energy expenses for the town of Norway and other local businesses and organizations. CEBE was just selected by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Clean energy Demonstrations to expand community solar into a cooperative model with a grant worth up to $2.9 million. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

NORWAY — The Center for an Ecology-Based Economy has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations to begin award negotiations for $2.9 million through the Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) program.

CEBE has been developing community solar projects and cooperatives, which operate under the Maine Community Power Cooperative, over the last seven years.

With locally-owned cooperatives, residents in western Maine will see reduced energy costs from community systems producing their power.

According to a recent statement from CEBE, households with low to moderate income levels will particularly benefit from the development of “solar gardens,” an offshoot from large-scale commercial solar farms.

Maine Community Power Cooperative aims to develop a replicable and scalable model for a consumer and worker owned cooperative to provide clean, affordable, and reliable energy to residents and small businesses in underserved and economically disadvantaged rural communities.

Impacts of cooperative energy projects go beyond energy savings measured in dollars, which is estimated to shear household energy expenses by 20% to 40%. The program will ensure that 50% of its stakeholders are low income.

It will also promote job and skill-building opportunities for installers and contractors, through partnerships with the Rural Cooperative Development Training Program. CEBE is working with the University of Maine to create internships to boost Maine’s solar workforce.

Solar PV arrays plan to be installed at six sites throughout western Maine. The project is expected to create power generation revenues, which will be distributed by a consumer and worker owned electric cooperative to members.

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