Homeowners, renters, and business owners alike can all look to community solar as a way to save energy and protect the environment. For Ian Dorsey, President & CEO of Mast Landing Brewing Company, community solar was the perfect solution to a long-term desire for his company: to reap the environmental and financial benefits from solar without an upfront financial investment that a small craft brewery can’t afford.
Mast Landing’s community solar journey: going solar without the down payment
Five years back when he was starting Mast Landing, Dorsey had a mentor relationship with another local brewery, Maine Beer Company. At the time, Maine Beer Co. had already made a commitment to solar energy and installed rooftop and ground-mounted solar panels on their property. Back then, that seemed like the only way to go solar – and there was financial investment required that Mast Landing simply didn’t have the capital for at the time. Of his thought process at the time, Dorsey says, “What do we have to do to be able to afford that?”
Enter community solar. With most projects having no upfront costs to join, the cost barrier to entry is completely removed. While a small on-site commercial solar panel system can cost $50,000 or more, most community solar projects have no sign-up fees, and electricity bill savings start rolling in almost immediately.
For Dorsey and Mast Landing, once their landlord made an introduction to an acquaintance with knowledge about Maine’s newly-passed community solar legislation, the rest was easy. “I realized the cost barrier to entry was removed completely – that was really exciting,” said Dorsey. “At that point, it was super simple. He took a look at our electric bill, found a farm that had enough capacity to service us, and that was that.” The result? Mast Landing covers 100 percent of their electricity usage with their community solar subscription – and that can add up to quite a bit of power, especially as the brewery has sustained significant growth over the past five years.
Community solar in Maine
Community solar has been around for quite some time in Maine; in fact, the state initially passed community solar legislation back in 2009. However, due to net metering caps and other policy factors, the state has had a hard time growing its community solar market. Fortunately, community solar is on the rise in the Pine Tree State. In 2019, legislators passed An Act to Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine, which eliminated some past barriers and promoted community solar development.
How community solar and brewing go hand-in-hand
In the brewing industry, there’s an emphasis on trying to be as green as possible. “We rely on some pretty pristine natural resources,” says Dorsey. “Because we need them to keep doing what we do, it would be irresponsible and disingenuine not to prioritize sustainability. In some cases, we’re in a good position to even improve those resources.” Subscribing to community solar is a direct way to support clean energy development on the grid, and is a perfect way for small businesses with clean energy goals to start moving towards those benchmarks and moving away from reliance on fossil fuels.
Breweries like Mast Landing run various phases of the brewing and fermentation process that use up plenty of electricity, making them perfect candidates for solar. The two main culprits are cold storage facilities (walk-in coolers, freezers, and glycol chillers) and large pumps that move liquid through the various phases of becoming beer.
Environmental protection and high energy usage may be the primary reasons for brewers to turn to solar, but the fit doesn’t stop there. Breweries often have ideal roof space for on-site solar installations. In the case of Mast Landing, community solar made more sense, but for others (like New Belgium Brewing and Maui Brewing Co), rooftop solar fit nicely.
Community solar and small businesses
It’s not just the craft brewing industry that can benefit from community solar – homeowners, renters, and small businesses alike stand to save money on electricity while promoting clean energy development with a community solar subscription.
For one, anyone with an electric bill can save with community solar. Project terms vary, but usually, you can expect somewhere between 5 and 15 percent savings on your annual electricity costs. For small businesses with energy-intensive facilities or warehouses, these savings can add up in a big way.
Community solar also promotes clean energy locally. Businesses like Mast Landing subscribing to a local solar farm results in more solar energy on the local grid and supports clean energy jobs in their community – and solar installers building these projects are usually small businesses as well.
Compare community solar projects in your area on EnergySage
Whether you’re a homeowner, renter, or small business owner, community solar can help you offset your electricity usage with clean, local electricity. For starters, it’s always best to know what your options are – check out our Community Solar Marketplace, where you can see a list of open community projects near you and get a quick estimate of potential savings. If there aren’t community solar projects available in your region just yet, you can sign up to receive updates as new projects go live on the Marketplace.