Maine imports hundreds of millions of metric tons of petroleum a year, and that’s a problem, a speaker at Saturday’s “Solar Celebration” at Morris Farm in Wiscasset said.
It’s a problem because the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than most oceans are, ReVision Energy customer relations manager Jennifer Albee said. The Liberty-based firm has done two projects at Morris Farm: panels on the roof of the circa 1840 barn to help meet the nonprofit’s energy needs; and, on land next to Gardiner Road, a community solar farm that a group of Central Maine Power customers will own.
“Small children in the room will thank us for taking our carbon problem seriously here in Maine. That’s why we get up and do what we do every day,” Albee added. As she spoke, son Turner Albee, 4, was sitting on a side bench and having part of a muffin. His father, Hans Albee, an engineer at ReVision, also spoke to the 30-plus attendees.
Among the tips he shared, the grass around a solar array should be mowed once or twice a year to prevent interference; try to avoid installing panels near deciduous trees because wet leaves will stick to the panels; snow is less of a problem because it comes off with a roof rake or melts off; all the precipitation Maine gets makes dust less of an issue than in some states; and he said sun exposure is more important than true south when positioning panels.
Towns can collect property taxes for the systems, Hans Albee said in response to a question from the audience. How to tax them and whether to tax them is up to each town, he said.
Morris Farm co-president Merry Fossel called solar power a kind of farming, one of the many kinds that happen at Morris Farm, she added.
The farm looks for projects that will work for everyone, her husband, co-president Les Fossel, said. For example, the farm recently helped an organization called Slow Money Maine deliver a $7,500 loan to a Whitefield farm; Morris Farm got a processing fee of one-half of one percent, or $37.50, and hopes to do other similar deals that support local agriculture, he said.
“We might make some money on this. And ultimately, we have to. We try to do those things that are good for all. And I’ve got to let you know, we’re going to fail. We’re absolutely going to fail. There’s going to be upsides and downsides that we don’t see. Welcome to the human race. But if we care about our community, we find a way around those and go forward,” Les Fossel said.
The Albees talked some business, with Jennifer Albee citing ReVision’s start out of a mini-van; now the company employs about 130 people and has worked on projects in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, she said.
Wiscasset’s Marty Fox was in the audience Saturday. Fox helped start the Wiscasset Sun CATS group that has advocated for solar power and its potential use at Wiscasset municipal buildings. In an interview outside the meeting hall, Fox said having solar power in Wiscasset, at Morris Farm, was something to celebrate.
“(These) projects did come more quickly than I expected. And the one in the town is taking a little longer. It’s politics. But hopefully we’ll be able to have something there in the near future,” Fox said.