Solar Panel Array at the Town Highway Garage

Solar Array being assembled for use on one of the Town Garage Buildings

Town of Mount Desert’s First Municipal Solar Array Up and Running

Northeast Harbor, Maine (June 18, 2018) – The Town of Mount Desert’s first municipal solar photovoltaic array began generating power through the grid on April 5, 2018.   The 76.5 kilowatt (kW) array is anticipated to annually offset an estimated 71,300 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electrical energy used by the Town, and offset about 75,000 pounds of carbon.  Members of the Town’s Sustainability Committee, working with Public Works Director Tony Smith, helped launch and coordinate this initiative.

The roof-mounted array consists of 255 solar panels and is located on the municipally owned Highway Garage at 307 Sargeant Drive in Northeast Harbor, Maine.  The array will offset about 130 percent of the Town’s annual electrical use at the Highway Garage.  Electricity generated by the array that is not used at the Garage will credit other Town electric meters.

The performance of the solar array can be monitored live online by the public through this link: SolarEdge Mount Desert.

Mount Desert signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) financial structure with ReVision Energy that requires no up-front investment from the Town.  Instead, the Town of Mount Desert pays ReVision monthly for electricity use at the Garage, at a rate comparable to the rate Emera Maine has been charging in 2018.  ReVision Energy’s Nick Sampson explains that, “while our initial projections show the Town paying a competitive rate and staying revenue neutral in year 1, Mount Desert will actually experience energy savings over the course of this first partial year in service. And the Town’s rate is fixed for the first 6 years of the PPA, which should lead to further savings as Maine utility rates have risen by an average of 3% a year over the past 10 years. Going forward, the Town will have greater predictability in these costs.” 

The Town holds an option to buy the entire system outright after six years of operation, at a substantially reduced cost, and thereafter be credited by Emera Maine for all electricity generated from the array.  This will significantly reduce energy costs to the Town.  The solar panels have a life expectancy of 30-40 years, and will be generating electricity throughout that time with minimal degradation.

 “When solar was first suggested to me for a Town facility, I was a skeptic” Director of Public Works Tony Smith admitted.  “But the numbers don’t lie: this will save the Town money in the years ahead.  I’m hoping we can identify other sites we can consider for solar array installation.”

With this project, Mount Desert continues to make considerable strides toward reducing its overall energy consumption and carbon footprint.  Later in 2018, thanks to the combined efforts of Public Works Department and the Sustainability Committee, the Town will be converting all of the Town’s 294 streetlights to LED fixtures, which dramatically reduces those lights’ electrical consumption while also significantly reducing glare and light pollution. The lights are expected to pay for themselves in energy savings within about five years.

The Sustainability Committee develops ways to reduce Mount Desert’s carbon footprint, reduce waste and balance the protection of the Town’s natural resources with present day needs.  Plans are underway to develop an ordinance regulating various plastics such as single-use plastic shopping bags and foam take-out containers.   Town of Mount Desert residents who would like to join the Committee are welcome to apply online or at the Town Office. Those interested in joining are encouraged to attend one of the Committee’s monthly meetings; for more information call 276-5531.