A year after the city approved solar farm ordinances upon interest from SunRaise Investments to build a solar farm on Perkins Road, the project is nearing completion and the company is taking customer applications for electricity discounts.

Senior Vice President of Business Development Patrick Jackson said the company is seeking applications from homeowners, renters and small businesses in Central Maine Power’s service area.

There is no buy-in or amount of money to pay up front to start service, he said. If an application is accepted, the customer will receive discounted electricity. The company has projects that sell discounted electricity only to large facilities and other projects that sell discounted electricity only to residential customers.

“We believe in a mixed approach,” he said. “So, on many of our projects we’re only signing up residential and small commercial customers, because we feel it's important for all those stakeholders to be able to enjoy community solar and receive discounted, clean, local electricity.”

The company was not able to receive credits under the state’s distributed generation procurement program, which it originally sought, Jackson said. Instead, the company was able to be approved for credits under the state’s net metering program.

Maine Public Utilities Commission did not receive its desired number of bids for the distributed generation procurement program, and it was unhappy with bid amounts, so it closed the program, Jackson said.

It is unusual for the state not to award bids in a solar program because it did not reach a favorable number of bids or bid prices, he said. He hopes the program will reopen this winter for companies to place new bids.

Maine PUC did not respond to requests for comment.

The Perkins Road project is the fourth solar field to be built in the city. Belfast built three solar fields on various public properties to power almost all municipal buildings. There were enough solar installations in the state to power 16,734 homes in 2019, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Gov. Janet Mills has identified the industry as an investment opportunity for the state and a way to reduce greenhouse gasses. She has introduced programs to promote the industry and expand its presence in Maine.

SunRaise currently has five other projects under construction and the is gearing up for several more to be built in the spring. This project will reduce overall emissions of carbon dioxide by the equivalent of what is emitted annually by 1,300 cars, he said.

About 1,200 customers will be eligible for discounted electricity through this project, he said. It will add 120 local jobs that cannot be exported.

“We feel very proud to be able to employ local Mainers in many of our projects during this global pandemic and economic crisis,” Jackson said.

For information about how to apply for discounted solar credits, visit sunraiseinvestments.com.