Mt. Abram to receive $235,000 solar project grant
With help from a new $235,000 federal grant, Mt. Abram hopes to break ground in mid-October on a solar panel project that should save the Greenwood ski area nearly 100 percent of its current energy costs.
“It’s all very exciting,” Mt. Abram owner Matt Hancock said Monday.
The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant was announced last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Mt. Abram will install a solar photovoltaic system consisting of 869 solar panels and producing 422,076 kWh of clean renewable energy annually, according to a USDA press release.
Under the terms of the REAP program, up to 25 percent of an eligible energy production or conservation project can be funded through a grant.
Hancock said the total project cost is about $940,000. The grant, he said, “ is the difference between [the project] making sense or not.”
The project has been in the planning stages for about two years. Mt. Abram has its permit approvals from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and from the Town of Greenwood, he said.
The panels should generate enough electricity to cover almost 100 percent of the mountain’s needs, which currently carry an electricity price tag of about $80,000 annually.
“That’s almost 10 percent of our budget,” said Hancock.
And with fluctuating electricity rates, he said, “that takes out a long-term variable for us.”
In addition, he said, Mt. Abram can benefit from “tax opportunities” by getting renewable energy credits.
He’s also hopeful that more energy conservation-minded skiers will choose Mt. Abram in support of its energy initiative.
Hancock said if ground is broken in mid-October, the panel project should be finished by Thanksgiving and ready for the start of ski season in December.
If there should be delays, he said, the work would then have to wait until spring.
Hancock said another grant application is in the works for other improvements at the ski area.
In February a representative for Mt. Abram presented a proposal to Greenwood selectmen for a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant to aid in future solar panel expansion and roadway and parking improvements. The board provided a letter of intent in support of the plan to enable the ski area to apply for the funds.
Grant approval also requires applicants demonstrate that the improvements would create jobs.
Longer-term future developments described in February included expanded snowmaking ponds, trail system development, condo units and other improvements.
Hancock said more solar panels might be installed further down the road as the ski area grows.