Cumberland’s solar field located on Drowne Road. the Town Council has endorsed the construction of a similar solar field for SAD 51 as the district plans for a new school in North Yarmouth. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

The Cumberland-North Yarmouth school district will look into going solar to supply power to all of its campuses, according to the School Administrative District 51 chairperson.

The Cumberland Town Council recently urged the school district to adopt solar power, and North Yarmouth Select Board Chairperson Brian Sites said his board will soon decide on a similar endorsement.

The SAD 51 board will create a solar committee comprised of representatives from the School Board, Town Council and Select Board along with members of climate action teams from Greely High School and the town of Cumberland, board Chairperson Tyler McGinley said.

The Cumberland campus does not have the space to accommodate a 10- to 15-acre solar field, which is what the district would likely need, McGinley said.

In a letter to the School Board urging it to look at solar power, the Cumberland council said it was “disheartened” to learn that the board had so far not included it in its plans for a new pre-K-grade 2 school on Gray Road in North Yarmouth. The full letter from the Town Council to the School Board can be found at on the March 14 agenda.

“(W)e’re here to help them, given the town’s specific experience in building and running this solar farm behind us right now,” said Councilor Mark Segrist at the March 14 meeting, referring to the 4-acre solar operation on Drowne Road.


Mike Williams, who represents Cumberland on SAD 51, told town councilors March 14 that he’s a “huge proponent of building solar as part of the elementary school project.”

“I have often said to my colleagues, it would be hard to get my vote if we didn’t have solar on it,” Williams said.

School Board member Peter Bingham said in February that “at this point in time, we couldn’t justify tacking” the cost of a solar on to the school project, which is projected to cost $70 million.

“There may be other possibilities for solar there or somewhere else in town,” Bingham said at a February meeting. “We didn’t want to get the cost north of $70 million.”

Solar power has not been budgeted for the new school, but McGinley said the board has been discussing solar with the architects at every meeting so far. Cost estimates are not available yet, she said.

“In order for us to get a cost, we have to really look at what we need first and invest in research,” she said.


Building a solar field to serve the schools is a top priority in Cumberland’s Climate Action Plan, which was approved by the council last June. The plan specifically set a goal for a 2.1-megawatt project that would generate 100% of the district’s electricity. Another goal of the plan is to design and build all-new town buildings “to a zero-carbon standard.”

Plans for the new elementary school include geothermal heating to help offset the school’s energy cost.

The council encouraged the School Board to enter into a power purchase agreement similar to the one the town has had with ReVision Energy since 2019. Under that agreement, the town purchases power created by the solar array from investors that are partially managed by ReVision. Cumberland can purchase the array for about $630,000 in four years, and then have free electricity for the life of the array, which is estimated to be 40 years.

“The (agreement) is extremely attractive,” McGinley said. “However, we need to do our research on what the boundaries are and how that might be different for a school district as opposed to a town project.”

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