Testimony: Requiring Public Hearings on Community Solar Projects


Testimony in Support of LD 735, “An Act to Require the State to Hold a Public Hearing in a Municipality
Before the State Constructs a Solar Project in That Municipality”

Senator Nangle, Representative Stover, and the distinguished members of the Committee on State and Local Government, my name is Nick Murray and I serve as director of policy for Maine Policy Institute. We are a free market think tank, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that advocates for individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on LD 735.

This bill is important simply because Mainers deserve the opportunity to make their voices heard about a proposed solar farm in their town, at least because they have very little reason to believe that it will lower their power bills. Experience around the world shows us that intermittent energy sources like solar are unreliable, making it expensive.

Ratepayers in Great Britain are facing higher prices after their power grid operator spent more than $5.1 billion (£4.2 billion) in emergency payments last year to secure energy in the times when the grid was not producing enough to meet demand. Britons rely on renewables like wind and solar to generate nearly half of their electricity. Since it is costly and physically difficult to store energy for long periods of time, if wind turbines and solar panels generate power when it is not needed, it will be wasted.

Gov. Mills and her allies are pushing for these larger solar projects around the state in order to claim a “victory over climate change” and meet their goal of 100% of Mainers’ power being classified as “renewable.” Of course, this classification includes solar and wind, but certain sources, technologies which contribute base-load, emission-free energy at a high capacity, like nuclear and hydropower, are not included. But, if that hydroelectric dam has less than 100-megawatt capacity, then we consider it “renewable.” 

Our state’s energy policy is nonsensical and backward. Among several factors, it deserves some blame for the immense price hikes Mainers have seen in the last two years. The average price of electricity in the New England grid has been more than 17% higher since 2015 compared to the seven years prior. Meanwhile, the national average rose only 9.7% in that time.

Mainers need LD 735 so they can demand accountability from state officials when they try to put an unwanted solar farm in their town. Given that the state does not require “grid-scale” solar projects to include the price of recycling and decommissioning in their proposals, taxpayers and local residents are much more likely to be sold a worthless bill of goods.

Please deem LD 735 “Ought To Pass” and provide Mainers more input in the process of siting a solar farm in their municipality. Thank you for your time and consideration.