Renew Rockland held a meeting Tuesday, Aug. 16, to workshop ideas regarding its goal of having the city be 100 percent reliant on renewable energy. The meeting, which took place at the MidCoast Collaborative building on Shepard Street, was an opportunity for the founders of the group to brainstorm ways to achieve clean, sustainable energy with local volunteers and interested individuals.

Founded by Amy Files, Zander Shaw and Nathan Davis, Renew Rockland has devoted itself over the past two years to pursuing ecologically sustainable alternatives to current sources of energy, food sustainability and public waste management. Citing the past proposal for a natural gas power plant in the city as a catalyst for establishing the group, Files said, “We were frustrated with what we felt was a lack of proactive initiatives to bring development to Rockland that was sustainable and healthy for both our community and economy, and wanted to create a group that could focus on possible sustainable initiatives for the city.”

Files, who serves on Rockland’s Comprehensive Planning Commission, introduced the focus of the meeting as “getting Rockland to 100 percent,” looking to the future for a date when the city could be sustained completely by renewable energy.

Forms of energy discussed were solar and wind options, as well as geothermal and tidal energy, taking into account the landscape of the area and the nearby ocean.

Davis, a software developer who serves on the city's Energy Committee, argued for the potential viability of solar as an option by explaining the correlation between square footage of solar paneling and the energy these panels could provide in practical terms. An example of technology which was useful in understanding this idea is Google’s Project Sunroof, which maps out the surface area of all the roofs in a residential community.

Examples of other cities throughout the country which have achieved their goal of renewable energy sustainability include Aspen, Colo., a city with a population similar to that of Rockland (approximately 6,700 and 7,200 respectively), went on 100 percent renewable energy in 2015. Closer to home, Mount Desert Island has set a goal of being energy independent by 2030.

Files explained that this number was agreed upon through community organization by volunteers, events such as potluck suppers and island meetings, as well as a dinner for the entire island to discuss planning, which was supported by grants.

Renew Rockland seeks benefits from renewable energy to the environment including: lack of emissions, no carbon footprint, and a separation from fossil fuels and reliance on non-renewable natural resources. Also discussed were drawbacks to renewable energy options: solar energy requires a lot of space to be efficient; wind power creates noise and tidal power could affect sea life. However, the greatest hurdle facing this project would be in collecting information about Rockland’s energy use and working with the city to determine how much of its current energy supply is renewable and how the remaining majority is being produced.

In addition to Rockland residents, there was also an interested party in attendance from Thomaston, who proposed that Renew Rockland expand its reach to involve neighboring towns in the cause.

Co-founder Zander Shaw agreed with this idea. “The more municipalities we get involved, the better our chances are," he said. "If surrounding communities are buying into this idea, it does put more pressure on. If you see positive change happening next door it does make you think, ‘Are we really going to be the last ones to get on board with this?’”

Renew Rockland will meet again Sept. 20 to discuss “Getting Rockland to 100 percent” The meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. at the MidCoast Collaborative, focus on deciding on a year that can be used as a deadline for when Rockland could be reliant solely on renewable energy.

“The goal is by next month to come up with a model which is realistic and also publicly defensible,” Davis said.

In the meantime, volunteers will be contacting local legislators and energy providers and collating data from towns and cities that have already met their goals of sustainability.

Interested individuals are encouraged to contact info@renewrocklandme.com for information about upcoming volunteer opportunities.

In addition, Renew Rockland will be hosting two other meetings later this month concerning its two other project objectives: passing a food sovereignty ordinance and organizing a solid waste club to find sustainable ways to reduce and manage waste in the community.