Whether you are driving down Ocean Street or visiting our Community Center, you may notice big, beautifully blue solar panels in your view. These solar arrays, scattered across South Portland, advance our progress toward being a clean, green city.

Implementing solar projects advances our progress toward goals set in One Climate Future, including reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and running all municipal operations on 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2040. In addition, installing solar arrays saves the city money over the lifetime of the projects.

There is an impressive history of solar projects in South Portland, as well as a bright — no pun intended — future ahead.

The history of our solar projects

In 2013, a conversation about solar sparked in South Portland. The city’s inaugural array was just installed on the roof of the Planning and Development Office at 496 Ocean St., and the city was planning for a solar array at the landfill at 929 Highland Ave., navigating how to make renewable energy economically feasible for the city.

South Portland’s inaugural solar array was recently installed on the roof of the Planning and Development Office at 496 Ocean St. The city is also planning for an array at the landfill at 929 Highland Ave. Above, part of a solar array at the entryway to the transfer station in Oakland, Maine. Rich Abrahamson photo/Morning Sentinel

The city and its partners, Revision Energy and the city of Portland, planned for four years to bring the landfill project to fruition in 2017. Due to solar policy being so restrictive at the time, it was difficult for municipalities to pursue solar projects. However, South Portland was determined to implement solar in our city and built the largest array municipalities were permitted to install at the time. This array alone generates 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy. We utilized the success of this collaborative project to advocate for better solar policy at the state level and ensure a prosperous future for solar energy in our city.


These efforts paid off and in 2020, new legislation was passed in Maine that made solar projects financially advantageous for municipalities. South Portland took advantage of this opportunity to put several new solar projects in motion. The city had released a request for proposals in 2019 for solar arrays in city facilities, with a focus on developing arrays in already degraded or developed locations across the city, so as to not interfere with wildlife and natural ecosystems.

In addition, it was important to the city that these arrays were highly visible to showcase solar projects to residents and visitors alike, display our commitment to renewable energy and spark conversation about on-site arrays. We eventually identified two prime locations for three new solar projects: two new projects expanding the array on the capped landfill and a rooftop array on the city’s community center.

With the city’s remaining capacity for solar projects, we released another request for proposal for an offsite project, that resulted in a contract with Nexamp to participate in an offsite array in Gorham. Though each of our solar projects are saving the city money, this contract provided the most significant cost savings for the city.

The future of solar in South Portland

Today, the Office of Sustainability sits under the city’s first solar array at the Planning and Development Office, planning for the four new solar projects coming online in 2022: two new landfill projects, an array on the Community Center and an offsite project in Gorham. These new projects, along with pre-existing arrays, are expected to collectively offset over 80 percent of municipal electricity use in our city. Additionally, these four projects are projected to save roughly $200,000 in the first year, and over the life of all South Portland’s solar projects, the city is estimated to save more than $25 million.

South Portland is committed to installing solar projects at a city-level. While the previously mentioned projects are municipally owned, there are opportunities for residents to participate in solar efforts as well.


Interested in contributing to solar? Read Our Sustainable City next week to learn about community solar options in our city.

For more information on municipal solar projects, visit https://www.southportland.org/departments/sustainability-office/energy-climate/landfill-solar-project/.

Our Sustainable City is a recurring column in the Sentry intended to provide residents with news and information about sustainability initiatives in South Portland. Follow the Sustainability Office on Instagram and Facebook @soposustainability.

Mia Ambroiggio is a Greater Portland Council of Governments Resilience Corps fellow serving with the South Portland Sustainability Office. She can be reached at mambroiggio@southportland.org.

Comments are not available on this story.