Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon stands across from (from left) Rep. Brian Hubbell, Tremont Selectman Kevin Buck and Rep. Genevieve McDonald during a visit to the solar array in Tremont on Aug. 13 to talk about climate change and the importance of renewable energy. PHOTO COURTESY OF SARA GIDEON FOR MAINE/HEEYOUNG LEEM
TREMONT—For so long we have said, ‘this is their future,’ regarding children, U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon told a group gathered in front of the town’s solar array. “This is about our present and everything we do when our children begin learning how they have the ability to affect that change now.”
As part of her statewide campaign for the U.S. Senate, Gideon visited Tremont on Aug. 13 to learn about the solar array installed at the end of 2018 by Sundog Solar on a closed landfill.
Gideon also met with members of A Climate To Thrive to discuss their goal of achieving energy independence on Mount Desert Island by 2030.
Reps. Genevieve McDonald and Brian Hubbell, as well as state Sen. Louis Lucchini, also attended the event. It was McDonald’s second time coming to town for the solar array; the first was shortly after she was elected as a representative of district 134 in Nov. 2018.
“I am really proud to represent Tremont,” she said to the small crowd during the meeting. “The ribbon cutting of the solar array was the first public event I attended after being elected.”
Tremont Selectman Kevin Buck, also a member of the ACTT board, outlined how the town worked with the organization to have the solar array approved by voters and built on the landfill next to the town office. Buck also explained how it produces enough electricity to power all the town’s facilities, including the school.
“I found out this was possible without the town going in debt,” he said, adding it is projected to save the town $400,000 over the next 25 years. “When you’re a town as small as Tremont, that’s significant. It’s a green, clean energy source on a site that wasn’t providing anything.”
Tremont resident Elaine Eaton added that the data from the solar array is available for the school’s students to be able to study how it works.
When Gideon asked how the town was spreading the word to other municipalities, ACTT Executive Director Lawson Wulsin said the solar installation at the high school had inspired other towns. As part of the project at the high school, the students outlined the steps it takes to go solar, Wulsin explained. Hubbell added the high school is getting inquiries from other schools regarding the installation.
“With the high school, that information spread fast,” said Eaton.
Gideon, who released her Climate Agenda the week before her visit, called the work, “amazing and inspiring.”
“You are one small community, but you are showing your community, the rest of the island and the state of Maine how it can work,” she said. “This is available to low–income people as well; cost should not be a barrier.”
After talking about the town’s solar array, Buck talked about a community solar farm slated for the remaining open land on top of the landfill.
“We are providing an example of what can be done,” he said. “Every town on this island has moved forward on these projects.”
Eaton suggested there should be state mandates requiring solar energy to be part of new construction projects, especially for schools.
“If you have those mandates, then people have no choice but to follow that line,” she said, adding that the solar industry has multiple benefits. “It does more than provide energy. It’s the fastest growing employment option there is.”
“The climate crisis also offers us an opportunity,” she said. “It offers an economic opportunity if we embrace it… Sometimes the conversation around climate is very divisive, but it doesn’t have to be.”