Brunswick council warms up to solar power

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BRUNSWICK — Motivated by Freeport’s example, the town is exploring its own solar-energy initiative.

“With climate change probably being the greatest environmental and societal challenge … any effort this town can take the lead on for renewable energy is a great step forward,” Town Councilor Steve Walker said at the June 15 council meeting.

A solar-energy initiative, Alex Anesko of the Recycling and Sustainability Committee said, is a way for the town to facilitate a bulk purchase of solar energy.

“It’s a way for residents and small businesses to lower the cost of putting solar on rooftops,” he told the Town Council.

Anesko said a town can do what individual owners cannot: put a project out to bid. By soliciting multiple proposals from local installers, the town can choose the best tiered price scheme.

From there, the solar installer takes over publicizing its project and organizing installations. Residents can then buy in to the price plan.

Freeport, to date, has had 39 customers install rooftop systems, according to the website

Anesko said the typical rooftop installation has a capacity of about four to five kilowatts, and saves customers about $800 a year in electricity costs.

“A four- to five-kilowatt installation also saves about a ton of coal” from being burned a year, he added.

“It’s the right thing to do for customers, and the right thing to do for the environment,” Anesko said.

Councilors were generally excited about the proposal.

“This is a great opportunity,” Councilor Jane Millet said.

Councilor John Richardson suggested approaching Topsham and Harpswell to facilitate “greater purchasing power.”

After the meeting, Walker said he would be open to widening the conversation to other towns, as long at that doesn’t delay the project.

Currently, people who install rooftop solar arrays are eligible for a federal tax credit. But that tax credit is set to expire Dec. 31, 2016.

“Hopefully we will be moving forward (before then),” Walker said.

Anesko will report back to the council at its July 20 meeting with a project update.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.