Maine Solar Rush

Kendra Hardesty  /   August 28, 2019

On June 26th, 2019, State of Maine Governor Janet Mills made her clean energy and climate leadership goals clear by signing three major bills associated with renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Related bills have been popular amongst Legislature in recent years but did not become law due to vetoes from Former Governor LePage. Following Governor Mills’ inauguration, many national and regional solar developers have been following the direction of the state with a close eye knowing it’s only a matter of time until they can make their move into the market. What does Maine’s solar implementation mean for the State’s electricity consumers and property owners?

Recent Legislation

LD 1711- An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine.  The Act will create more than 400 megawatts (MW) of new distributed generation in Maine. This Bill opens up opportunities for community shared projects tailored to serve low and disadvantaged customers; incentivize development on landfills and brownfields, and allows for a net energy billing program for commercial customers.

LD 1679- An Act To Promote Clean Energy Jobs and To Establish the Maine Climate Council.  Bill to establish the Maine Climate Council who has goals to reduce Maine’s Greenhouse Gas emissions 45% below 1990 emission levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

LD 1494- An Act To Reform Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Today, Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is 40% of the States energy consumption. This Bill increases Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to reach 80% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050, making this program one of the most ambitious in the United States.

Solar Benefits

• Community Solar farms could power more than 45,000 homes and provide a cost-effective solution for Maine’s residents.

• Distributed generation makes the electric grid more robust and gives consumers more choices for their energy needs.

• Expected creation of more than 500 new jobs across the State.

• Clean energy and decreased greenhouse gas emissions. Is this the end of coal power plants?

Insights For Property Owners

• Distributed Grid capacity is limited and typically allocated on a “first-come, first-serve” basis. Those who act upon a site first and file for interconnection with the respective utility company can defend others from developing on the same circuit. When circuits fill up, new interconnections become time-and-cost-prohibitive. Interconnection approval typically takes between 4 to 6 months and costs $18,000 to $25,000 per project. Other soft costs increase total development expenses in excess of $60,000.

• Total solar power generation will primarily comprise 1 to 5 MW developments. Generally speaking, 5 acres produces 1 MW; therefore, developers are in search of 5 to 25-acre parcels. A pilot program of up to 40 MW (160+ acres) will be established by Q1 2020.

• Land or rooftops can be developed with the new Bills enacted. Rooftop and land developments are most viable when there are 40,000 or more square feet of surface area and three-phase grid infrastructure in close vicinity. Solar rooftop leases help finance new roofs and add money to the property owner’s bottom line. Most often, the leasing entity bears all development costs, and lease terms are 20+ years.

• Maine has over 400 brownfields and landfills owned by the State, local municipalities or private entities. Solar development opens up an excellent opportunity for these owners to monetize their closed landfill. Landfill development is the best use because it increases land value through long-term power purchase agreements on what is normally considered undevelopable land.

Next Steps

• If you have a parcel of land you don’t anticipate developing, consider leasing to a solar company and enjoy collecting a check every month. You can also sell the parcel outright.

• Act now. As mentioned previously, capacity in the electrical grid is limited, and others in the immediate area can “box” you out.

• Developers often use the option to purchase or lease agreements with owners allowing for 12-18 month due diligence periods before closing or lease signing. Also, the option rent payments are negotiable.

• Reach out to The Boulos Company, and we will help navigate you through all solar development options.