U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Success Stories

From Black to Green: A Biddeford, Maine boat yard on the site of a former coal-burning energy plant turns to solar energy for the future

Leigh Hallett
Clean Energy
Inflation Reduction Act
Renewable Energy
Senator Angus King stands at a podium bearing the seal of the City of Biddeford. Sean Tarpey stands to the right in the photo, holding an award signifying Saco Bay Marine's REAP grant. In the background are 2 electric boats and a larger boat in the far background.
A red, white, and blue sign says "Investing in America: Working Waterfront Electrification at Saco Bay Marine." The sign is mounted on a building with red siding. The edge of black solar panels is just visible on the roof overhead.

Saco Bay Marine LLC is a Maine company with deep roots. It is the corporate parent of Rumery’s Boat Yard, founded more than 60 years ago on the Saco River in Biddeford. Now owned by Sean Tarpey, the company offers boat storage, maintenance and repair, and boatlift and crane support. Saco Bay Marine secured a $28,700 USDA Rural Energy for America grant. In November 2023, Maine Solar Solutions completed installation of a 19-kilowatt, roof-mounted solar voltaic system at the yard. The system will generate most of the business’s energy needs.

Says Sean Tarpey, “Saco Bay Marine has had the goal of making marine-oriented businesses more environmentally conscious for over a decade. The installation of these solar panels with the assistance of the USDA and the Biden Administration is a major step in the right direction.” Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, USDA’s REAP program covered 50% of the project’s cost. Saco Bay Marine prominently mounted a sign under the array to acknowledge this federal support. 

Sean Tarpey has worked with electric-powered boats for more than two decades. He has welcomed this emerging technology alongside traditional projects at the boatyard. Now his son, Matt Tarpey, has two startup companies on the Saco Bay Marine campus, Maine Electric Boat Company and Marine Solar Technologies. Together they strive to make renewable energy options a standard part of Maine’s working waterfront. All three businesses now draw nearly all their energy needs from the sun.

An old black and white photo shows Rumery's Boat Yard from the air in 1955. Some of the old electric plant infrastructure can still be seen in the photo. Houses and streets surround the boat yard, and the Saco River is visible at the front.
This 1955 photo of Rumery's Boat Yard from the MacArthur Library shows the remnants of some of the electrical plant infrastructure on the grounds. 

That Saco Bay Marine is now a leading example of a waterfront business generating its own clean energy on-site via photovoltaic solar panels is particularly ironic given the site’s location. One of the primary structures at the site dates to the late 19th century. At that time the solid and somewhat elegant brick building served as a coal-fired electric plant belonging to York Light and Heat Company. The company had recently electrified the city of Biddeford using energy produced in coal-burning plants belching out smoke and toxic emissions.

In 1902 Biddeford Mayor Nathaniel Walker reported in his annual address that “An entirely new electric lighting plant has been installed by the York Light and Heat company, and the streets of our city are a perfect network of electric wires.” He was likely referring to the very electric plant located at the site of present-day Saco Bay Marine, replacing a plant that had recently been destroyed in a fatal explosion. Mayor Walker went on the lament the dangers of the coal-fired plant and the electrical wires suddenly draping city streets. In 1902 there was much to fear from coal-generated electricity, and Americans had no inkling yet of the dangers of climate change.

By contrast, the solar energy now being generated at the site is clean and safe. Maine Solar Solutions completed installation of a rooftop solar photovoltaic system in late 2023. A century and a quarter after the York Light and Heat Company explosion leveled several buildings in town, Biddeford’s current mayor attended an event at the boat yard to celebrate the REAP grant and completed solar installation on February 15, 2024.

In the shadow of the old brick building that formerly housed the electric plant, Mayor Marty Grohman observed, "This is a prominent project. We are proud of this successful Biddeford business that is leading the way by example in the climate transition and will be holding this business up as an example. I also am proud as mayor to be able to say that Biddeford has a leadership role in the marine electrification opportunity currently underway in the State of Maine."

Congratulations to Sean Tarpey of Saco Bay Marine for bringing this historic property full circle from coal combustion to solar energy generation! The company's work to help waterfront businesses move from diesel propulsion towards cleaner options also deserves celebration. 

The photo shows solar panels mounted on a long, narrow roof as seen from the roof. Another part of the building in the back ground bears a sign, "Rumery's Boat Yard." Solar company trucks are visible in the background. There is a blue sky and leafless trees in the far background.
"Maine Solar Solutions is proud to support Saco Bay Marine’s renewable energy goals and the local Maine economy by installing this solar array. Our team provided guidance and support as the Saco Bay Marine team applied for their REAP grant, and we were thrilled to see it quickly approved by USDA."
-Sam Zuckerman, CEO of Maine Solar Solutions. (Photo courtesy of Maine Solar Solutions.)
Two men pose on either side of a round, yellow, waist-high device. They are indoors with a cement wall behind them. The device is a solar-powered water quality testing buoy.
Sean & Matt Tarpey with a solar buoy prototype from Marine Solar Technologies (based at Saco Bay Marine). “Maine Electric Boat and Marine Solar Technologies are delighted to see clean energy generating products installed at the facility that we call home," says Matt. 
Obligation Amount:
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • Maine: District 1