Maine Audubon recently held a press event featuring its new photovoltaic array, which uses a series of solar panels to generate enough electricity to handle roughly 80 percent of the organization’s annual electric usage.
A series of speakers made a compelling case for not only Maine Audubon’s decision to develop solar energy at its Gilsland Farm headquarters, but for solar in the state and national energy mix. Phil Coupe, cofounder of Revision Energy (who developed the photovoltaic array), explained how solar has become a competitive energy source in Maine, and how—by avoiding the need to rely on energy sources that put carbon in the atmosphere (read all combustion technologies)—solar delivers even greater benefits. Shawn Moody of Moody’s Collision Center spoke to the role of solar in the Maine economy and how private and nonprofit entities can collaborate to develop solar energy. Senator Angus King addressed the big-picture role of renewables in addressing the national and global challenge of climate change.
It was an upbeat, forward-looking event and hardly a one-off. Later that same day, Senator King traveled to Wells to inaugurate the Wells Reserve at Laudholm’s installation of a photovoltaic solar array. Although not yet a wave, the move toward solar in Maine is certainly a trend. The state, after all, has 33 percent greater solar energy resources than the entire nation of Germany, a leader in solar energy production. By devoting just one percent of its landscape to solar energy production, Maine could meet its energy demands indefinitely. It’s not likely that we’ll ever go quite that far with a single energy source, but the potential is intriguing.
No one can predict Maine’s energy future with certainty. But knowing how energy choices affect our environment (and in Maine, our economy depends on the health of our environment), I can safely say that solar—along with other renewable energy sources– will be a big part of it.
Thus, it was a more than disconcerting when I read an invitation from the state Chamber of Commerce to attend its April 3 “Maine Energy Summit.” I don’t know for sure, but the event, although claiming to be an “in-depth discussion” of Maine energy issues (electricity and heat and commercial/industrial usage), is unlikely to be about respective roles of renewables and other sources in Maine’s future energy mix. Renewable energy is missing from the agenda, and there are no renewable energy sponsors. Given the critical role of energy choices in Maine’s and the planet’s climate future, an event that does not include that subject in its agenda, hardly qualifies as a “summit.”
We’re well past the time when solar and other renewable energy sources were “boutique” experiments. An energy future without them is no future at all. If there is to be a true Maine energy summit, it must do a far better job of contemplating Maine’s energy future
Charles Gauvin started at Maine Audubon in 2014. Gauvin brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, much of it as the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading river and fish conservation organization.Gauvin most recently served as Chief Development Officer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. He collaborated with Carnegie scholars worldwide to develop program strategies and support in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.