Southern Maine towns participating in a solar collaborative

Seek proposals from solar developers to help reduce energy costs

Courtesy of the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission

Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission is soliciting proposals from solar power developers for six towns that have banded together as the Southern Maine Solar Collaborative in an effort to take advantage of Maine’s new energy billing program.

SACO, Maine — Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission (SMPDC) is soliciting proposals from solar power developers for six towns that have banded together as the Southern Maine Solar Collaborative (SMSC).

The effort will take advantage of Maine’s new energy billing program by purchasing from solar farms (located within the Central Maine Power utility grid), thus reducing energy costs and reliance on fossil fuels.

The six towns will use a joint procurement process to obtain solar power via the Net Energy Billing Tariff Rate Program, which allows Maine municipalities to offset their electric bills by using small-scale, renewable energy generation facilities, such as solar farms. 

The deadline for proposal submissions is April 21, 2021.

Fryeburg, Kennebunkport, Kittery, Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach and Waterboro are all participating in this initiative to implement a joint procurement process for a single, 20-year master contract that may be adopted by all participating members. The advantages to this collaborative procurement process include better pricing options enabled by larger procurement, reduced municipal staff time, competitive contract terms and peer learning support.

“Utility costs are a big burden on towns,” said SMPDC Sustainability Coordinator Karina Graeter. “The Net Energy Billing program was established by legislation in 2019 to allow Mainers to meter solar power on their roofs or take part in community solar farms. It also set up a new net energy billing program specifically for commercial and industrial customers, such as municipalities, so that they can participate in solar energy even though they might not be able to build their own solar array on town property.

“This program aims to help them offset their electric bills using the output from small renewable generators, to support renewable energy generation in the state, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their town,” Graeter said. “The Request For Proposals (RFP) will help municipalities understand and evaluate what solar developers are offering, determine the best deal, and decide what is going to work best for their towns.”

Kittery Town Manager Kendra Amaral said her town is excited to be a part of the regional effort. 

“The project will allow us to take action on our shared climate goals by shifting our electricity use to renewable energy sources, and combine our buying power to lower electricity costs,” Amaral said.

According to Graeter, for solar developers and towns, it’s a win/win.

“We’ve learned that solar companies appreciate the RFP process because it streamlines everything for them — it makes clear what towns’ needs are and makes it easier for developers to apply for six towns as opposed to approaching and contracting with towns individually.”

Graeter explained how it works: Net energy billing attributes the energy to the municipality. The solar project delivers electricity to the utility. Once the electricity is measured, the amount would then be converted to “dollar credits” that would be applied to the municipality’s account. The result would be a direct cost discount on the town’s Central Maine Power bill. In turn, the town would then pay the solar project’s developer a discounted rate for those credits. 

For more information, contact SMPDC Sustainability Coordinator Karina Graeter at kgraeter@smpdc.org. For the Request for Proposals, see smpdc.org/solar.

The RFP deadline is Wednesday April 21, 2021, at 3 p.m. 

Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission (SMPDC) is a nonpartisan nonprofit that cultivates thriving, sustainable communities and strengthens local governments by leading planning and economic development for 39 member towns in Southern Maine. The organization was founded in 1964 to provide technical expertise to municipalities in York, southern Oxford, and Cumberland Counties. SMPDC offers a coordinated effort for land use, smart growth, resource management, environmental sustainability, and transportation planning. For more information, please visit smpdc.org

Source: https://www.seacoastonline.com/story/lifestyle/2021/04/05/southern-maine-towns-participating-solar-collaborative/7075172002/