Owner hopes sun shines on Harpswell wharf
HARPSWELL — Reversing Falls Lobster may be the first wharf in Maine to use grid-tied solar energy.
That's according to owner Jim Merryman, who watched a small crew of local contractors from ReVision Energy of Portland install 44 solar panels Monday on two roofs of his wharf overlooking Ash Point Cove.
"As lobstermen, we practice sound, sustainable conservation measures every day to be good stewards of the ocean, to preserve this industry, to make sure that it's there for future generations," Merryman said on Monday evening after the panels were installed. "As a business owner, I wanted to take it to another level."
The U.S. solar market grew 116 percent from the second quarter of 2011 through the same period this year, according to a Sept. 10 report by GMT Research. With 1,254 megawatts of solar panels installed this year so far, the research firm said that's more than double the amount of growth from last year.
"While the residential market grew incrementally, the non-residential market contracted significantly and the utility market boomed," GMT said in its quarterly report, which was conducted in association with Solar Energy Industries Association.
As the cost of photovoltaic solar panels has decreased, ReVision spokeswoman Jennifer Hatch said, the company has an increased use of solar panels in Maine.
"The environment is a big part of it, but I think the financial aspect is what makes people move forward with the system," Hatch said.
By securing a $11,750 grant from U.S. Department of Argriculture's Rural Energy for America Program this past summer, Merryman said he was able to subsidize the $46,500 cost of his system.
"Solar was really the only feasible alternative energy source we could implement in this location," said the wharf owner, who purchased the property formerly known as Bibber's Lobster three years ago.
It shouldn't be too long until Merryman sees a return on his investment, said John Capron, project manager for ReVision Energy.
"The economics are very compelling these days," Capron said. "The price of solar panels have gone down significantly in the past five years."
The wharf's 10-kilowatt system is expected to produce 12,000 kilowatt hours per year, Hatch said.
Using 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour – the most recent figure for Maine's average commercial electricity cost from an Aug. report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration – the system will save Merryman around $1,404 a year, although though that figure will change as the average cost of electricity fluctuates.
Merryman said he would like his facility to become completely sustainable in four years.