Unity residents and business owners are mulling whether to invest in solar power projects as a way to lower utility bills and retain businesses.

Energy consultant Steve Kahl, who is heading up the effort, said he thinks now is the time to invest in such projects, citing low interest rates and the fact that the 30 percent solar tax credit expires in 2016.

Kahl, the former sustainability director for Unity College, said widespread solar availability could help keep businesses in town. There are programs across the state that take advantage of solar energy, including a solar sharing program in Freeport and a solar array that helps power Thomas College in Waterville.

Several models could be adopted, said Kahl. One is a community solar farm, where people buy shares like they do in a community-supported agriculture program. The cost to install the solar farm is shared among participants, and they share the benefits of lower electricity bills.

A second model could appeal to Unity nonprofits like Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and Maine Farmland Trust. They could join together on a solar project by soliciting investors who would build the solar array and sell the electricity at a discount rate to the nonprofits, Kahl said.

He said the investor would have a contracted buyer and get a 30 percent tax credit while the nonprofits would get the discounted electricity.

Kahl said businesses or the town could join together on a similar project.

Several information sessions, hosted by the Unity Barnraisers, have been held on the matter. The next is set for Feb. 24 at the Unity Community Center.