Bigelow Laboratory Nears 100 Percent Solar Power


In a leap toward a greener future, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is now powered by more than 90 percent renewable energy. The development follows the new construction of a Waldoboro solar farm, of which Bigelow Laboratory is one of the largest users.

The new 10-acre solar array, owned by SunRaise Investments, went online in July. It produces over three megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 700 homes. Bigelow Laboratory claims about 30 percent of its output.

“Our research around the world makes it clear that climate change is the biggest threat facing our oceans,” said Deborah Bronk, president and CEO of Bigelow Laboratory. “It’s exciting to have this opportunity to continue reducing our carbon footprint and walk the talk."

The solar farm is partly a result of the Maine Net Energy Billing Program, which allows commercial and residential users to purchase energy credits from community sources. This effectively allows clients to utilize renewable energy without having to construct solar generators on their property.

“Now you can generate solar energy where it makes most sense,” said Joe Harrison, SunRaise Investments director of project development. “That's an incredibly important change in policy.”

Harrison grew up in Boothbay and is excited to see solar development in the area. He said it can provide many benefits for local organizations, individuals, and the state. The sites can create an alternative revenue stream for farmers while minimizing impact on the land and promoting tax benefits.

In addition, users can cut carbon emissions and save money in the process. Bigelow Laboratory is now getting 85 percent of its electrical needs from the farm and saving $30,000 in energy costs.

“We could have expanded the existing solar array on our property, but we would have to cut down trees,” said Laboratory Manager Tim Pinkham. "Instead, we’re utilizing unused farmland, so it was a much greener install. And the fact that it's a local facility that’s providing power into the grid is a benefit to the region.”

The development is the newest addition to Bigelow Laboratory’s green initiatives. The organization was the first research laboratory to achieve LEED Platinum status in Maine, and it added a 244-panel solar array to its campus in 2017. In addition, electric vehicle charging stations were made available this spring and are now 100 percent solar powered.

Photo Credit: Kevin Corbit, SunRaise Investments