Freeport and Maine Beer Co. honored with conservation awards

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FREEPORT — Maine Beer Company and the town of Freeport were each honored this week for their work in using solar energy.

The Maine Conservation Alliance on Monday honored the town and the beer company, located at 525 U.S. Route 1, with Community Climate Champion awards. The ceremony, held at Maine Beer Company, was attended by town officials, state Rep. Sara Gideon, Assured Solar Energy, and others.

“I am honored that Maine Conservation Alliance is recognizing our dedication to the environment,” Daniel Kleban, co-owner of Maine Beer Company, said.

In June, the company installed two large solar panels on its property that generate 50 percent of the company’s energy. Kleban said he’s not yet sure how much money this has saved the company because it’s still too soon to tell.

“It’s certainly been a savings,” he said. “Even more importantly, which you can’t quantify, is the good will we’re producing within the community.”

Kleban said he and his brother, the other co-owner, knew from the start that they wanted to use solar energy at Maine Beer Company.

“We started it with the idea of not only producing good beer, but we also wanted to be good corporate citizens,” he said. “The solar installation … is one manifestation of that.”

The town has also been using more solar energy, resulting in an award being given to Town Planner Donna Larson. Larson in November 2014 spearheaded Solarize Freeport, an initiative to reduce the cost of solar energy equipment for residents by encouraging enough people to sign up so the town could qualify for bulk pricing.

Larson said 41 homeowners have signed up for the program.

“(What we have) here in Freeport is a strong desire to make sure we protect the environment,” Larson said.

Solarize Freeport is the first bulk purchase of solar equipment by a Maine municipality, which Gideon applauded at the award ceremony.

“Energy is sort of the backbone of everything we do,” Gideon said. “The states that figure out how to embrace renewable energy will be ahead.”

Although Maine Beer Company’s solar panel installation happened around the same time Solarize Freeport was being implemented, the two aren’t related. Larson said she hopes more businesses will see the success the beer company has had and follow suit. She said it might make the investment seem less risky.

“The whole idea of going solar is a huge financial commitment,” she said. “When they see their neighbors’ installations it makes it so an investment isn’t as scary.”

Kleban agreed.

“We saw it as a challenge that you can be a small business and you can invest in infrastructure like this,” Kleban said. “Not only is it good for the environment, but it can be good for business.”

Gideon said even if the initial investment is large, the payback is even larger.

“Investing in renewable energy resources, and specifically solar, is simply an investment in our future,” she said.

Larson said she is very proud of what the town has accomplished so far, but she knows there is still more to be done.

“I don’t think Freeport is done with energy conservation,” she said. “There’s more work to be done.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Maine Conservation Alliance Program Director Beth Ahearn (forward, right) presented Town Planner Donna Larson (froward, left) with a Community Climate Champion Award for her work on the Solarize Freeport iniative.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.