While Maine does not receive nearly as much sunlight as the rest of the country, it is becoming one of the most favorable states for solar due to a combination of state and utility incentives.
In June 2019, the Maine House and Senate enacted “An Act to Reform Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.” Under the bill, Maine increased its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. The state is also set to develop an additional 400 MW of distributed solar. 150 MW will be allocated for commercial and industrial-grade solar projects, and the remaining 250 MW will be for large-scale distributed generation resources (projects larger than 50 MW).
The bill mandates the Maine Public Utilities Commission to procure long-term contractors for renewable energy generation, combined with battery storage. There are no specific solar carve outs, but solar is an eligible technology to meet the standards.
The act also removed restrictions on larger solar projects in the state. This allowed for the development of community solar, which has led to a boost in the number of solar installations across Maine. Between 2019 and 2020, solar installation grew from 85 MW to 170 MW—a 100% increase year over year.
Solar power purchase agreement (PPA) prices are generally favorable in Maine, owing particularly to the NEB Tariff Rate Program which allows solar owners in Central Maine Power and Versant Power to offset their electricity bills using the produced output from their solar energy systems. Maine solar owners also receive a 100% property tax exemption for the value that a solar generation equipment adds to their property. Finally, retail electricity prices in Maine are well above the national average, which makes it easier for solar PPA prices to be competitive.
Maine’s favorable solar incentive structure has attracted major solar developers to the state. As of Q3 2021, NextEra Energy frontlines the utility front-of-the-meter solar leaderboard, with 33% market share. Swift Current Energy and Dirigo Solar closely follow, at 27% and 21% market share respectively.
Unfortunately, the solar job industry in Maine has experienced a downturn during the pandemic, with -7% job growth between 2019 and 2020. However, owing to the negative impact on the solar jobs industry across the country, Maine’s ranking increased from 42nd to 41st amongst all the states.
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Maine Solar Market Report
The DG+ Maine Solar Report outlines specific solar PPA prices and provides an overview of the developers/installers that lead the Maine solar market.