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Accelerating warming, intense precipitation, rising sea levels — these are just a few of the signs of climate change that are happening in Maine and around the globe. What are citizens, businesses, state agencies and communities doing to cope with it and to try to reduce its future effects? That's the focus of new year-long series on MPBN. "Beyond 350: Confronting Climate Change" will explore what steps are underway, both large and small, and what challenges lie ahead.This series is made possible by the Limulus Fund.

Group Looks to Encourage Solar on MDI to Rid Island of Fossil Fuels

It’s been six months since the residents of Mount Desert Island launched a grassroots initiative to become energy independent in 15 years.

The effort was highlighted in January as part of our ongoing series Beyond 350: Confronting Climate Change. This Sunday residents are getting together again for an update on the project, and they’ve already gotten a clearer picture of how to reach their goal.

They’re calling the effort “A Climate to Thrive,” and since January, residents of MDI have done some crucial homework. Gary Friedmann, chair of the group’s advisory board, says they’ve figured out how much electricity is consumed on the island at peak hours over the course of a year and how much it would take to power all the homes and businesses in the area.

“It would take about 400 acres of photovoltaic panels to power the whole island. And while that may sound like a lot, we’ve also had a recent College of the Atlantic student do a study of all the rooftops on the island. And if we put photovoltaic panels on every economically viable solar exposure we could power 85 percent of the island,” he says.

So now the group plans to launch an initiative to solarize as much of MDI as possible, and to encourage homeowners and businesses to consider a joint purchase of photovoltaic panels in the coming months.

“There’s a small discount when you buy a massive number of panels, and also it reduces the cost for the contractor when they can just go down the street and do a number of homes and businesses in a row rather than drive across the state to do installations,” Friedmann says.

In addition, the town of Bar Harbor breaks ground on the island’s first community solar project next week, and Friedmann says he hopes that will be the first of several.

Sunday’s gathering will also hear from groups working on getting to zero waste, boosting production of local food, improving building efficiency and adopting carbon neutral transportation. U.S. Sen. Angus King is a keynote speaker for the event, which begins at 3 p.m. at MDI High School.