Many smaller, solar-produced electricity projects have been built in Maine in response to the Legislature passing our Net Energy Billing law in 2019. This law provides payments to increase the profitability of small solar projects under 5 kilowatts. Solar projects in between clover leaves on Route 95 will provide much of the electricity for Maine state offices for 20 years at a considerable savings. South Portland has expanded its solar project on a capped landfill to reduce electricity prices for the town. Topsham Solar Advocates created a solar ordinance, passed by voters, which both protects wetlands and encourages private solar development. Nexamp, a large solar developer, is one of three solar companies building or planning community solar projects in Topsham using the clear standards of this ordinance.

Salespeople for community solar electric projects have been going door to door in Topsham and other towns to solicit subscriptions to fill these projects’ capacity. Our family household subscribed in August 2021 to the Sunraise Solar electric project being built in Belfast. I did so after asking lots of questions of an experienced energy analyst, Kay Mann, who had attended many energy programs of the E2Tech consortium of energy-related businesses with me over the past 10 years. I wanted to know the history of Sunraise, where the project was being built, when it was expected to come on line and if it used plantings between solar panels that included native wildflower seeds.

A Maine Community Solar subscription requires no upfront payment, no construction on your property and no financial risk to yourself. If you choose an environmentally minded and competent company, in two to six months, you will be getting some 10% cheaper electricity. You can choose a solar provider that does not require any contract period. You can get the benefit of green electricity, which will help Maine reach it’s Maine Can’t Wait Climate goals to reduce fossil fuel emissions that cause climate heating. Solar and wind power will continue to be the cheapest forms of electricity at about 4 cents per kilowatt. Solar companies can invest their own or third-party funds to make a significant profit on community solar power, and they carry the risk of delayed connection with CMP, permit and environmental costs, and rising interest rates.

It’s important to do some research using the Public Utilities Commission website to investigate your choices in joining a community solar project. Does the company soliciting you actually build and operate solar farms or does it just buy and deliver solar generated electricity by other companies as a marketer? You will be signing up before a project is completed, so ask when the expected date of operation is and where it is located. All electric users, including apartment renters and businesses, can sign up with a community solar farm for their electric supply.

Once we selected Sunraise as our Community Solar operator, we gave them access to our CMP account, so they could calculate our average monthly electricity use and determine what percentage of their project electricity we would need. The solar company will send CMP your monthly credit for your portion of their solar production and charge you for the solar electricity produced in the previous month. You will get bigger bills in the summer when more solar power is produced and lower winter bills. Until you build up enough banked credit, CMP will charge you the full price for the standard offer and will charge you monthly per kilowatt for the distribution charge.

The solar farm produces clean energy and delivers it to the grid, increasing the renewable energy available to your community and lowering carbon emissions. Renewable energy credits are applied to your bill each month based on your banked share of the solar energy produced. Whichever solar producer you select, such as Nexamp, Sunraise, Arcadia or Ampion, this company will bill you for the solar electricity your allocation provides.


Go to where the Public Advocates Office has a good list of questions for you to ask a community solar promoter. Good questions include: Is there a required contract period, and what happens if I move? Will my HEAP or LIAP benefits apply to the solar bill? When will I receive my specific solar disclosure form to insure that the company is not under enforcement action?

All solar providers must register with the Public Utilities Commission as net energy providers, where you can verify the company is not a marketer but actually builds and operates solar farms. The PUC list of registered solar-service companies gives websites, phone numbers, mailing address and whether each company is a marketer or builder and operator of solar power. Once we selected Sunraise as our Community Solar operator, we gave them access to our CMP account so they could calculate our average monthly electricity use and determine what percentage of their project electricity we would need, which is our allocation. The height and length of time the sun hits solar panels increases in spring, reaches a peak from April through November, and then is lower in the winter. During the warm months, your electric production portion will be greater than your electric use, so it is banked to be credited to future bills.

Our solar share must be produced before we get the discount. Since we missed the peak May through July production months by signing up in August, we did not build up enough credit to get the discount after midwinter. This second winter, our banked discount has lasted almost all winter. Our monthly electric bill from CMP includes their delivery charges. It also shows the record of our electric generation, use and amount of our banked credits from Sunraise. Until you build up enough banked solar credit, you will be charged the standard offer price for any additional electricity your solar share hasn’t yet generated.

Nancy Chandler studied Animal Behavior and Anthropology at Stanford University, then received her master’s in biology education in her home state of North Carolina at U.N.C. Chapel Hill. She is passionate about teaching energy conservation and hopes to get you thinking about how to use energy use efficiently to save both money and reduce greenhouse warming gases.

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