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Unity College alumni help 'solarize' Maine

Community solar project links college, local nonprofit organizations in partnership

When Benjamin Holt graduated from Unity College with a Sustainable Energy Management degree in 2014, he sought to stay in the area and put his degree to work.

Holt was immediately hired by a local solar installation firm, Insource Renewables of Pittsfield.

A resident of Unity, Holt has since installed solar electric, solar heating, and mini-split heat pumps across a wide swath of Maine. This summer, he will have the opportunity to use his skills and degree to serve the region around his alma mater through Solarize Mid Maine — a community solar project coordinated by the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition.

As with other Solarize projects across the country, Solarize Mid Maine reduces the installed price of solar for participants by organizing a bulk purchase. Through a competitive bidding process, the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition selected Insource Renewables of Pittsfield to lead the effort.

“Ben’s work with Solarize Mid Maine is a great example of a Unity College education in action,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “Our partnerships in local communities help graduates do meaningful work in their fields of study while benefitting consumers and the environment.”

Solarize Mid Maine also has partnered with Unity Barn Raisers — a nonprofit organization that works to support “a thriving community-based economy” while enhancing the rural character of the Greater Unity area — to serve the communities of western Waldo County in this effort.

“Unity Barn Raisers is thrilled to facilitate community engagement for Solarize Mid Maine,” Unity Barn Raisers Programs Director Mary Leaming said. “In our role as a vital community convener, we are proud to support an effort that makes energy efficient technology understandable and accessible to more Mainers. This initiative has the potential to positively affect many members of our region by lowering the cost of operating businesses and maintaining comfortable households.”

Holt is joined by fellow Unity College alum Matt Wagner, a 2002 graduate of the Environmental Studies program at Unity who has worked in Maine’s solar industry for more than a decade.

Wagner said he chose to stay in the Unity area after graduation and currently lives with his wife and two sons in Knox in a net-zero home that he built.

“Unity College taught me to align my actions with my principles,” said Wagner. “I bought my first solar panel in 1999 for $20 per watt.”

“I’ve been an advocate for renewable energy since and I look forward to working in conjunction with the Sustain Mid Maine Coalition and Unity Barn Raisers to Solarize Mid Maine,” Wagner added.

Holt, a native of Skowhegan, said he valued his experience at Unity College.

“I thoroughly enjoyed attending Unity College and becoming a part of the strong community, so I was happy to find a job that allowed me to stay in the area,” Holt said. “This summer, I am very excited to help bring solar to the towns that I’ve grown to appreciate so much.”

Several upcoming events are scheduled in the Unity area to help the public better understand solar and heat pump technologies and the Solarize Mid Maine program:

  • Unity Barn Raisers will host a Solarize Mid Maine presentation at the Unity Community Center on Wednesday evening, March 30 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. The presentation will provide an overview of the Solarize Mid Maine program and various energy improvements discounts for local homes and businesses.
  • Vaughan Woodruff, owner of Insource Renewables, will be speaking on solar and Solarize Mid Maine at the 22nd annual Rural Living Day at Mount View High School in Thorndike, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., Saturday, April 2.
  • Unity College Dean of Students Gary Zane and Nancy Zane will host an open house of their PV system and mini-split heat pump at their residence, 491 Stevens Road, Unity, 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 8.

The public is encouraged to attend these events. For more information on Solarize Mid Maine or to register for a free quote, visit www.solarizemidmaine.com or call (207) 619-4901.

Thursday, March 24, 2016