Local farm helps supply energy to RSU 9 and RSU 73

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Students and staff from RSU 9, among many others, attended a ribbon cutting on Saturday to celebrate a partnership between a local solar farm and the district.

LIVERMORE FALLS — A recently completed solar project in Livermore Falls is the first in Maine to provide most of its solar energy to public schools in the state. The 14,040-panel array is expected to produce roughly 6,478,200 kilowatt hours of clean energy annually, offsetting more than 6,348,000 pounds of carbon pollution from regional fossil fuel power plants each year. Maine-based ReVision Energy partnered with Aligned Climate Capital, an investment firm focused exclusively on clean solar energy and other sustainable assets, to bring the project to western Maine.

Locally, Regional School Unit 9 and 73 have committed to reduce their carbon footprint by participating as “off-takers” from the array under what is called a power purchase agreement. The two districts, along with three other public schools in the state, will utilize 96% of the energy produced. The remaining 4% will go toward the Farmington Water District. Solar power generated by the array will offset the electric bills of the off-takers through Maine’s Net Energy Billing program.

Landowners, Evelyn Norton and Priscilla Swartzlander, were born in the farmhouse that still stands on the property. Their father Harold Souther, 97, was also born in the family’s generational home and still lives there. Souther ran the dairy and poultry farm for years, taking over operations from his father. The land is now leased to a neighbor and a cousin for pastureland, raising livestock, and hay production. In the fall pumpkins, squash, and cornstalk are sold.

“We think it’s a showpiece for incorporating solar while continuing farming,” Norton said. Her father wanted to ensure the farm will stay in the family once he is gone and saw the solar farm as a way to ensure this. The money from the leased land will allow his family to keep the property.

“This project shows that smart clean energy investments can benefit local communities,” Peter Davidson, CEO of Aligned Climate Capital said.

“Every year Mainers export $6 billion from the local economy to import fossil fuels from away. Every time we build a clean energy project like the Southern Farm solar array, we keep our energy dollars here in the local economy, helping to plug that massive hole in Maine’s fiscal boat while increasing our energy independence and resilience,” ReVision Energy co-founder Phil Coupe said. “It’s important to remember that Maine has not a drop off fossil fuels under its soil, but we do have abundant renewable resources in the form of wind and solar, and a recently discovered deposit of high-grade lithium in Newry could help Maine participate in the development of the energy storage technology we need to mitigate the intermittency of renewables.”

A celebratory ribbon-cutting took place on Saturday with representatives from all five schools, the Farmington Water District, ReVision Energy, landowners, Congressman Jared Golden’s office, Aligned Climate Capital, and Governor Mills’ Energy Office. Local town officials and school board members also attended.

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