Phil Coupe: “In your face Renewables”

In the Portland Press Herald piece, “For 2015, five hopes for a brave new Maine,” ReVision Energy Phil Coupe cites renewable energy as an opportunity to transform the landscape of Maine’s economy – literally:

PORTLAND ME - DECEMBER 15: Phil Coupe of ReVision Energy Tuesday, December 16, 2014. (Photo by)

When tourists visit Portland – whether by car, boat or plane – one of the first things they see on their way into the city is the large collection of oil tanks in South Portland.

Phil Coupe wants to change that. Why not transform those giant tanks into aquaculture facilities, or use them for wood pellet storage?

“My big idea for 2015 is that we emphasize the huge potential of renewable energy to accelerate our tourism economy,” he said.

Coupe is co-founder of ReVision Energy, the largest solar installer in Maine, and is on the board of the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine. His idea would make Maine’s renewable resources much more visible to tourists and therefore make Maine a more attractive place to visit.

“After the long painful slide in our paper and pulp industry, tourism has now become Maine’s biggest economic driver,” Coupe said. “The fact that Maine has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in New England and the highest oil consumption in New England, those two realities are really in conflict with the idea of a tourism economy based on a pristine natural environment. You’ve got a problem there. There’s a pretty big disconnect.”

Many of Coupe’s notions fall more into the category of hopes and dreams, rather than changes that might actually happen in a year’s time, but they do put intriguing ideas on the table. Coupe said, for example, he would turn the new Thompson’s Point development into “a shining jewel of sustainability” with New England’s first net-zero entertainment facility – a building that uses only renewable energy created on site.

And those oil tanks in South Portland? As they become underutilized, turning them into wood pellet storage facilities would make it easier to supply wood pellet boilers in southern Maine, as that industry lacks the infrastructure to deliver its fuel. Maine has four pellet mills and is a net exporter of wood pellets, Coupe said.

“Maine has 440,000 oil boilers, many of which we could convert to fully automated pellet boilers,” he said. “I’m not talking about pellet stoves, I’m talking about boilers that live in the basement. In western Europe, it’s much more common to see a pellet fuel delivery truck going down the street than an oil truck, and that’s part of the clean energy future we envision for Maine.”

Coupe would also cover the roof of Ocean Gateway in solar panels.

“It’s the absolute perfect roof,” he said. “It faces directly south. It’s a standing seam metal roof, which is the very best kind for solar panels because you can attach the panels without penetrating the roof by clamping to the seams. So it would be this wonderful symbol of renewable energy” as cruise ships filled with tourists dock nearby.

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Dollars and sense of solar energy systems

Brooks, Maine - Solar
A 4.59 kW solar electric system installed on a home in Brooks, ME

Clough Toppan writes in an editorial for the Kennebec Journal:

Two primary benefits of a photovoltaic solar array are its longevity and dependability. These arrays can last 30 years and most inverters can be connected to a wireless router to broadcast system production and communicate any system errors.

In my line of work, I occasionally do an energy audit for a homeowner who wants to have a photovoltaic array to supplement some of the electricity needed over the course of a year. The first thing I usually do after providing specific guidance about how to lower heating costs is to look at a year or two of electric bills for the house and figure a system that will power 90 percent of the annual power demands.

Following Maine’s net-metering rules, photovoltaic production in excess of what you use month-to-month is allowed to be credited to your bill at your per-kWh rate. This credit is carried forward for up to one year and used to offset times when your photovoltaic array doesn’t make enough power.

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Report: America could power itself 100 times over with solar energy

Via the Washington Post.  Did you know that the United States could easily power its entire economy using solar energy?

It is widely known that among all the sources of alternative energy, the one with the greatest potential is solar. How could it be otherwise? Staggering amounts of solar radiation strike the Earth each day; the only trick is capturing more of it.

In a new report, the Environment America Research and Policy Center seeks to visualize and quantify this potential as it pertains to the United States. The report argues that the U.S. “has the potential to produce more than 100 times as much electricity from solar PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations as the nation consumes each year.” It adds that every single state could generate more solar electricity than its residents currently consume.

Here’s a visualization, showing states that can get 1 to 5 times their current energy needs from solar, states that can get 5 to 25 times their energy, states that can get 25 to 100 times what they’re using, and states that can get over 100 times their current needs:

Chart from: Environment America, “Star Power: The Growing Role of Solar Energy in America,” 2014.

More on Washington Post website:

Powered by the sun – via panels many miles away

Tux Turkel of the Portland Press Herald reports on a group of homeowners who will soon be enjoying solar power production – from a solar farm array located miles away from their homes!  This is an exciting development in Maine’s solar energy resource; we hope the dawn of ‘community solar farms’ will allow many more Mainers to go solar!

From the PPH:

Falling prices for solar-electric panels are enticing Mainers who want to install them at their homes. That’s not an option, however, for Jim Atwell, an environmental engineer from Falmouth. He lives in a condominium, and the homeowners’ association won’t allow a solar array on the roof.

But starting next month, Atwell will begin meeting 80 percent of his annual electric demand with solar panels – installed 50 miles away on the roof of an old chicken barn in the Oxford Hills.

Atwell will become one of nine Mainers who are shareholders in the state’s first community solar farm. The farm is a shared solar project that feeds power from the sun into the electric grid. Each member owns a slice of the total power produced and gets a credit on his electric bill. After the initial investment is repaid, the shareholders’ electricity is essentially free.

Atwell’s 12 percent share in the project is costing him roughly $14,000, and he’ll save an estimated $1,100 a year on his bill. That’s a long payback, but money isn’t his primary motivator.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s something I believe in.”

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