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Community Solar

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A Cooperative Answer to Community Energy Needs

CEBE Selected by US Department of Energy to Receive $2.95M in Grant Funding
to Deploy Cooperatively-Owned Community Solar in Western Maine

Norway, Maine – On April 30, 2024, the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations to begin award negotiations for up to $2.95 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding as part of the Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) program. Cost Effective and Equitable Cooperative Community Solar in Western Maine was selected as one of 19 community-led clean energy projects across 12 states and 13 tribal nations and communities to receive more than $78 million to develop and deploy sustainable clean energy solutions and expand access to reliable and affordable energy in rural and remote communities across the country.

 

Since 2017, the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy has been incubating a community solar cooperative, now incorporated as Maine Community Power Cooperative. As the first public solar cooperative in the state, Maine Community Power Cooperative will reduce energy costs for western Maine households while keeping more energy dollars in our communities. It fosters consumer ownership of energy production, especially for households with low- to moderate-incomes, via multiple small solar projects distributed across the community. These “solar gardens” will utilize state-of-the-art, dual-axis solar tracker technology and will occupy around an acre of land, while generating enough power for 50 average Maine households. These smaller scale installations will benefit from expedited grid interconnection and provide landowners with income and flexibility to integrate agricultural enterprises such as grazing, vegetable production, or pollinator habitat in an “agrivoltaic” system. Distributed across the region, these solar arrays will also become increasingly valuable to regional energy resilience.

 

Developed with technical assistance from the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) and a volunteer steering committee, this consumer-owned cooperative will make affordable renewable energy accessible to anyone with a CMP bill, create good jobs, and help Maine and the world meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets. In 2023, CEBE won the Energizing Rural Communities Prize from the Department of Energy for its work on developing this solar co-op. The co-op expects to be generating power from its first solar installation by this fall.

 

One of the goals of Maine Community Power is to develop a replicable and scalable model for a consumer/worker-owned cooperative to provide clean, affordable, and reliable energy to residents and small businesses in economically disadvantaged and underserved rural communities. The cooperative approach upends the conventional approach to energy development and “puts the community back in community solar.”

 

To sign up as a potential member-owner of the cooperative, stay informed about progress, or to express interest in hosting a solar garden on your land, visit mainecommunitypower.com. To hear more about this project, attend CEBE’s fifth annual Climate Convergence, happening May 17-18 in Norway, ME – details here

 

Learn more about the ERA program and projects selected for award negotiations here.

 

To learn more about the Maine Community Power Cooperative, visit mainecommunitypower.com or Facebook.

Municipal Community Solar

From planning in 2019 through the project coming online in 2023, CEBE supported developer UGE and the Town of Norway to collaborate on building a community solar farm on Norway's capped landfill. CEBE assisted in subscribing local businesses to the farm. We celebrated this project's completion in June 2023 with the community.

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