It’s an exciting time for farmers and solar energy developers, now that Maine is set to become one of the leaders in renewable energy and clean job growth. In June 2020, Governor Janet Mills signed three bills into law that will support Maine in becoming 100% renewable by 2050. Only five other states (Washington, New York, California, Vermont, and Hawaii) have set comparable ambitious clean energy mandates.
Solar in Maine Means Income for Farmers
Farmers in Maine or owners of commercial buildings will be some of the first to see the impact of the bills as they encourage investment in solar power through a mandate to award the first projects next year. In January 2020, the Public Utilities Commission will release the rules for solar companies to bid on the initial 25 MW available in summer 2020. Between January and July 2020, solar companies will be competing for that bid and securing suitable locations for solar projects. As a part of that competition, farmers should see an uptick in solar developers who are reaching out and offering them leases to potentially build solar arrays on their property.
25 YEARS OF FINANCIAL SECURITY FOR FARMERS
A solar project lease translates into an immediate payday for farmers and a significant annual income once the project is developed and selected by the state, which translates into financial security for 25 years and a family legacy.
L.D. 1494: Maine has a Renewable Policy Standard which sets the pace and goal of renewable energy generation. This bill increases the standard to achieve 80% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
L.D. 1679: This bill promotes economic benefits and clean jobs for Maine residents by establishing the Maine Climate Council. The council is charged with developing action plans that support climate resiliency and the transition to a lower-carbon economy.
L.D. 1711: This bill reforms the state’s solar energy policies by expanding access to community solar, opening up energy choice to all consumers and creating incentives for 375 megawatts (MW) of new distributed generation.
The three bills go far beyond benefiting farmers and other property owners and will result in measurable economic growth. CCSA, the Coalition for Community Solar Access, predicts that L.D. 1711 will have a significant economic impact across Maine. Some benefits include an 87% increase in Maine’s solar workforce, $323.5 million in local economic benefits, more energy choice – serving approximately 18,100 customers and $157 million in earnings.
18,100 CUSTOMERS • $323.5 MILLION IN ECONOMIC BENEFITS • MORE ENERGY CHOICE
The bills will increase Maine’s solar capacity by seven times what it was at the end of 2018 and help drive the economy. Local Maine farmers will be crucial to its success and thus reap 25 years of benefits from choosing to bring solar energy to their community.