Rep. Nicole Grohoski cuts the ribbon at the opening of one of two solar facilities on Mariaville Road run by ReWild Renewables as City Manager Glenn Moshier (right) and representatives from ReWild look on. Grohoski was a co-sponsor of the legislation that allows the city of Ellsworth to benefit from solar installations like this one by buying net energy benefit credits. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY ZACH LANNING

Sun rises on city solar project



ELLSWORTH — It was difficult to hear over the thrum of the inverters at the ribbon cutting for the Mariaville Road solar array Monday morning. But the sound of DC power being converted to AC power was music to the ears of those assembled because it meant that, after a two-year process, the plant was finally up and running.

“Versant came and turned the system online last Friday [May 6],” announced Pat Jackson, co-founder of ReWild Renewables (formerly SunRaise), the developer behind the two solar installations on Mariaville Road. “That means energy is going to the grid, crediting the Ellsworth school and municipal accounts, as it will be for the next 20 years.”

The 6,370 solar panels at the site at 69 Mariaville Road, in combination with the 5,408 panels at the second site up the road, will generate 4.8 megawatts of electricity.

Unlike with smaller solar installations, where a homeowner may directly use the power that is generated by a rooftop array and then sell the excess back to the power company, the electricity generated by these larger projects gets distributed throughout the larger grid. That means it’s impossible to tell whether those electrons are being used specifically to power city facilities.

But the development is adding to the overall volume of renewable energy and the city will benefit through a contract with the developers. The city is participating in the solar project as an “off-taker.” Ellsworth is one of several “off-takers,” along with businesses like Helen’s Restaurant and Machias Savings Bank, which have agreed to purchase net energy billing credits from ReWild that can then be applied to their energy bills. The city estimates that it will save in excess of $3.9 million over the span of the 20-year agreement.

“The savings are going to be significant over the 20 years,” said City Manager Glenn Moshier at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “And we’re looking forward to passing those savings on to residents.”

Ellsworth was able to purchase these net energy billing credits thanks to a state law passed in 2019 aimed at promoting solar energy projects like this one. State Rep. Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth) was part of the bipartisan group of legislators that sponsored that bill. At the ribbon cutting she thanked the city, ReWild and groups like Green Ellsworth for making that piece of legislation a tangible reality.

“Oftentimes we pass a law in Augusta, and we say, ‘Good luck! Make this happen in your communities!’ But you have all put in the work to make this happen and the residents of Ellsworth will be the beneficiaries,” Grohoski said. “A lot of people are struggling right now with energy costs because we’ve left our energy future in the hands of so many people other than ourselves. I’m glad that we’re starting to take control of that future.”

 

Zachary Lanning

Zachary Lanning

News reporter Zach Lanning covers news and features in the Ellsworth area. He comes to Ellsworth by way of New Jersey, which he hopes you don't hold against him. Email him at [email protected].

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