Thursday May 16th, state director Carissa Maurin gave the following testimony on behalf of Enviornment Maine in support of Senator Dana Dow's bill LD 1711 ‘An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine’ which would lift the community solar cap from the current arbitrary limit of 9 to allow up to 200 participants under net metering, with no limit on participants for community solar farms under a competitive process. This bill aims to increase access to community solar, by instating specific targets and policies to assist low- and moderate- income families. It will also use competitive markets to capture low-cost solar, and build on the innovative, bipartisan policy ideas developed in recent years between Maine consumer advocates, solar businesses, and others resulting in at least three hundred megawatts of medium-scale (up to 5 MW) solar installations for communities, municipalities, and businesses. Her testimony is as following:

“Good afternoon Senator Lawrence, Representative Berry, and distinguished members of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. Thank you for allowing me to present this testimony today. My name is Carissa Maurin, I am the State Director at Environment Maine, and I am speaking to you today in support of LD 1711 ‘An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine’.

Solar power is expanding rapidly. The United States now has over 60 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed — enough to power nearly one in every 11 homes in America. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have invested in solar energy and millions more are ready to join them. Many towns in Maine could install far more solar energy capacity than they currently have. Increasing solar will make us energy independent so we’re not relying on imported fossil fuels and volatile prices, improve our air quality while reducing our carbon footprint, and advance our economy by creating good-quality local jobs.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association Maine is ranked 43rd in the nation for installed solar. The main barriers to solar energy in our state have been political rather than technological. Barriers like a 9-person limit on community solar farms have held back investments in solar power in Maine while in the rest of the Northeast it has been increasing quickly. Community solar farms allow clean energy to be available to those who other-wise couldn't have solar installed such as those who rent or live in mobile homes, and those who don’t have the financial resources to cover up-front installation costs. Community solar also lowers energy costs for everybody who pays an electric bill by harnessing power from the sun, delivering electricity locally and reducing dependence on large, expensive power plants and costly transmission lines.

Each year we harness more of the enormous solar energy potential but we still have a long way to go. This bill will expand access to solar energy for Maine businesses, towns, and households, save consumers money, and create hundreds of good quality jobs for electricians, builders and contractors. Maine should be a leader in solar by taking the steps necessary to power more homes, schools and businesses with clean energy from the sun. That is why I urge you to vote “ought to pass” on LD 1711.”