They’re young, enthusiastic and out to conquer the green economy. Meet three Maine eco-innovators who have turned their ideas into early-stage business startups. All spoke with Mainebiz about the inspiration for their businesses, immediate and longer-term goals and next steps. They also shared useful insights and advice for other entrepreneurs.
Solar megawatts for Maine
Part-time law student and full-time energy consultant and developer, 32-year-old Nick Mazuroski has been a lifelong proponent of clean energy.
After studying international political economy at Bates College, he got his first job in the solar industry and has been working in the renewable sector ever since. Today he takes classes at the University of Maine School of Law, is vice president of operations for the national Biomass Power Association, and is co-founder of Dirigo Solar LLC, a Portland-based startup that aims to provide locally sourced clean energy to Maine homeowners and businesses.
He says that while Maine had been politically hesitant to promote solar power under Gov. Paul LePage amid historically high technology costs, the situation changed when the federal solar tax credit was extended in 2015. That made it cheaper to deploy the technology, and Mazuroski co-founded Dirigo Solar that same year.
The firm name incorporates Maine’s state motto, which means “I lead.” That’s what Dirigo intends to do as an early-stage developer of solar plants, in partnership with BNRG Renewables Ltd. of Dublin, Ireland.
Mazuroski says BNRG’s extensive technical and financial capabilities combined with Dirigo’s landowner relationships equal a strong competitive advantage, saying, “fundamentally those three things are what allow us to be professional.”
The next 20 years will be busy. Under a contract with the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the state’s two electricity providers, Dirigo will build utility-scale solar plants throughout the state. The PUC estimates the project will save ratepayers up to $26 million over the 20-year period.
Mazuroski estimates a need for 1,100 workers to build the portfolio, and doesn’t anticipate any trouble finding talent despite Maine’s workforce challenges. “The lion’s share of the work should be done by Mainers.”
The contract covers 75 megawatts of capacity, primarily in areas served by Central Maine Power Co. and some by Emera Maine. Dirigo is looking to start building the first plants this year, which Mazuroski says could start selling power by late 2020.
Asked about his advice to other entrepreneurs, Mazuroski says it’s not enough to have a lofty goal, but also to ensure it makes sense from a business perspective: “We live in a capitalist society. If the economics don’t work, you’ve got to find another way.”