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Solar array on Livermore Falls farm to power schools

 The solar array on Souther Farm in Livermore Falls.
Revision Energy
The solar array on Souther Farm in Livermore Falls.

A 14,000-panel solar array on a family farm in Livermore Falls will provide power to 5 public schools in Maine, generating nearly 6.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy annually.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided more than $15 million of funding for the project developed on the Souther Farm. USDA Director for Rural Development in Maine Rhiannon Hampson says farmer Harold Souther worked closely with the USDA and Revision Energy to both preserve his farm and leave a legacy of clean energy for the five schools — Camden Rockport School District, Camden Hills Regional High School, Mt. Blue Regional School District, Regional School Unit 73 and Hope Elementary School.

"We don't want to take good, clean, healthy agricultural land out of production in order to meet our renewable energy goals. But we also realize that our renewable energy goals are really significant and really important," she says.

Hampson says the project allowed Souther to lease part of his land for the solar array and keep some for his family to farm.

Camden Rockport Schools Superintendent Maria Libby says the array will cover 90 percent of the school district's electric bill.

"We've taken a lot of steps to demonstrate a commitment to be as environmentally responsible as we can as a school district. And we're grateful that the opportunities are out there for us to walk the talk," she says.

Libby says the high school has solar panels on its roof and a wind turbine, the middle school has a new sewer thermal system to heat water and the district has a new electric school bus, funded with an EPA grant.

Hampson says the Inflation Reduction Act will also provide loans and grants through the USDA's Electric Loan Program to expand clean energy, transform rural power production and create jobs in the coming months.