Solar power is the process in which solar panels absorb sunlight and turn it into electricity. With global warming impacting this planet day by day, a need for more clean energy sources is becoming apparent. This is due to humanity’s overdependence upon fossil fuels in the last few centuries, which are non-renewable, and finite energy sources that pump out carbon dioxide when burned. Renewable energy is an energy source in which the resources are naturally replenishing and produce little to no carbon dioxide, thus being healthier for the planet and renewable. To combat the rising effects of Global Warming, Solar power, wind power, and various other cleaner energy sources have all been on the rise. From 2023 to 2024, clean energy will increase from 24% to 26% of the United States’ total electricity generation.
If you live in southern Maine, you may have noticed an uptick in solar panels. Towns such as Waterboro, Old Orchard Beach, Fryeburg, Kennebunkport, Kittery, and Ogunquit have all become a part of the “Southern Maine Solar Collaborative”, which is an initiative backed by several companies that have banded together with the intention of assisting with the costs of electricity and investing in renewable energy. This is because Maine has been increasing its solar power use since 2015. Since then, 55 megawatts have been installed with plans to install up to 500 megawatts over the next five years.
In Kennebec County, there has also been significant growth in solar energy. In fact, Kennebec County will have the biggest solar farm in the state once the project is finished, with enough power to supply electricity to 30,000 homes a year. The $200 million dollar project was financed by Massachusetts-based renewable energy company Longroad Energy, to provide cheaper and more efficient energy to Mainers. In addition to this project, the company is working on 5 smaller-scale solar projects across Maine aimed at reducing electricity costs, state-wide.
Solar power has become one of the fastest-growing renewable energy sources in the United States. Solar and wind are growing in use every year, while wind and hydroelectric power have been the renewable energy sources of choice in the past. While these methods becoming more popular is a good thing for the planet, many Mainers may wonder what the financial ramifications of installing their own panels are.
Upfront costs for solar panels being added to a home usually range from $14,365 to $19,435, which can be a scary price tag for many homeowners. Solar panels cost money per watt, not the size of the panels themselves. At about $1.50 per watt, most single panels will output 250 watts to 400 watts, which would mean one panel would be $375-$600. For a more specific price range, Maine homeowners can price out panels for their roofs using Google Earth technology. While it costs a lot of money upfront, your savings may pay for the panels themselves and save your family upwards of $75,000 over time. The average electricity bill for Mainers is roughly $95.77 a month, which means that with the right setup, Maine homeowners may be able to save upwards of $1,145 every year after switching to solar power. Due to the increasing use and popularity of solar, in the future, there may be even more savings to be found.
As for community solar farms (as opposed to personal solar panels) the average community member can expect to save 5-15% off their electricity bill as long as the solar farm doesn’t end up costing the community money. That means that there are certain situations in which switching to solar will raise your bill, so being aware of the possibility of different rates of spending is pivotal. Community solar is more popular than personal panels, due to the fact that many people don’t own the home they live in. Building solar farms is more feasible for communities in Maine and the U.S., with 35% of Americans not owning real estate, so this allows everyone to use the energy source instead of a select few.
Overall, more renewable energy is good, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Solar power currently only makes up 2.8% of America’s clean energy, with water and wind still being the most popular sources in the country. There’s a long way to go but Maine is heading for a cleaner footprint in the next few years, so keep an eye out!
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