February 3, 2023

Maine gets federal funding for solar projects

Maine is getting nearly $10.5 million from a federal program to help expand solar energy projects in the state to meet its clean energy goals.

The funding, awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program, will be used to help develop two large-scale solar projects. Combined, the projects are expected to produce more than 7 million kilowatt hours of electricity in their first full year of operation, according to the federal agency.

Members of the state’s congressional delegation said the funding will create clean energy jobs and help the state reduce excess greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are contributing to climate change.

“These investments are especially crucial for our rural communities,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said in a statement. “This funding will give small businesses and food producers in my district a huge opportunity to fight climate change at the local level and reduce their operating costs at the same time.”

The funds were part of a larger $800 million allocation from USDA for its rural energy program that will fund 165 projects in at least 40 states. Funding for grants was provided by the $1 trillion Jobs and Infrastructure Act signed by President Joe Biden last year.

“People in rural America are experiencing the impacts of climate change in many ways,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “This includes more severe droughts, more frequent wildfires, and more destructive and life-threatening storms.”

Maine has set aggressive goals to get more power from the sun and wind in coming years as it seeks to diversify its energy portfolio and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2020, about 80% of Maine’s electricity net generation came from renewable energy resources, with hydroelectric power providing the largest share at 34%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Earlier this year, the state’s largest utility, Central Maine Power, reached an agreement with solar power companies over the expansion of the industry in the state.

The settlement includes a commitment from the utility company to spend $700,000 over the next two years to add more clean energy in the regional electric grid.

Clean power groups, such as Maine Renewable Energy Association and the Coalition for Solar Access, had complained that CMP was throttling the expansion of solar power in the state by delaying the process of hooking up solar farms to its substations and requiring solar operators to pay for last-minute, multi-million dollar upgrades.

Gov. Janet Mills asked state utility regulators to open an investigation into the solar interconnectivity issues following CMP’s announcement early last year that it had underestimated the cost of infrastructure upgrades needed to connect about 18 solar projects to the grid.

This article was originally posted on Maine gets federal funding for solar projects

Sydney Boles