Portland lags on solar nationally but sees opportunity for growth

Environment Maine Research and Policy Center

Contact: Danielle Meltz, 720-450-4495[email protected]

As Maine continues to debate policies critical to the growth of solar power, a new report released today shows that Portland ranks 35th for installed solar installed per capita.

The report comes out right after the Public Utilities Commission decision to phase out net metering and right before the state legislature prepares to hear 2017’s state solar bills.

“By using solar power here in Portland, we can reduce pollution and improve public health for everyday Mainers,” said Danielle Meltz with Environment Maine. “To realize these benefits, city leaders should embrace a big vision for solar on rooftops throughout the community.”

The report, Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America, ranks Portland ahead of cities such as New York and Richmond for amount of installed solar. In particular, Portland has helped to grow solar by setting high renewable energy goals and backing them up with commitments such as the new plan of putting solar farms on closed landfills.

 “Sustainability must not be just a goal on paper, it must be achieved,” stated Ethan Strimling, Mayor of Portland, Maine. “That is why it is so critical to not only develop actionable, informed and measurable plans to ramp up solar power, but to commit to their implementation.”

The figures in the report reflect the recent growth of solar across the country. The top 20 cities listed in the report have nearly as much solar today as the entire country had installed in 2010. In 2016, solar was the number one new source of energy installed in America.

The Solar Foundation just released new data showing there are 173 people employed in solar in Cumberland County.

The cost for solar electric panels has dropped by more than 75% over the past 10 years, giving practical Mainers the opportunity to get a strong economic and environmental return on their solar investment,” said Phil Coupe from ReVision Energy.

Despite that growth, challenges remain for the solar industry in Maine. The Public Utilities Commission’s decision to phase out the solar power incentive of net metering will set Maine even further behind the rest of New England. 

“Adding insult to injury, we are dead last in the 6-state region in terms of solar energy adoption because we have a Governor who wants Maine to go backward by building natural gas pipeline on the backs of Maine ratepayers, rather than invest in clean, renewable solar energy that we can harvest locally,” said Phil Coupe.

Cities can push solar forward in a number of ways, according to the report. Among the recommendations, cities can set a goal for solar usage, help residents finance solar power and put solar on government buildings. 

The report also shows that while Portland is a solar leader, it currently only uses 1% percent of its solar potential, according to data from the US Department of Energy.

“Cities are big energy users with lots of unutilized roof space suitable for solar panels,” said Danielle Meltz from Environment Maine. “Portland can continue leading the way and protect our environment by using as much of our solar potential as possible.”


Environment Maine Research & Policy Center is a statewide environmental organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces.