Planners approve permit for solar farm

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members unanimously approved a revised permit for the community solar farm on Route 32 North (Vassalboro Road), allowing it to be four times as large as originally planned.

At the board’s June 28 meeting, Hans Albee of ReVision Energy, engineer who will oversee the project on land leased from Christopher Hahn of Three Level Farm, said since the original permit was approved in August 2015 the community solar farm has attracted potential owners who use more electricity than expected.

The new application is for up to 200 kilowatts of capacity, requiring up to 800 solar panels covering an area of about 42,000 square feet, 12,000 square feet of panels with aisles between them.

The array will be owned and managed by an association of not more than nine Central Maine Power Company customers, who will use the electricity generated and sell the surplus to CMP.  Although the project will be larger, it will still connect to the same already-existing CMP line.

The panels will be about 10 feet high, angled at 35 degrees so snow will usually slide off, with non-reflective glass to minimize glare and maximize solar intake.  Once the panels are in place and the owners’ association formed, mowing and other maintenance become the association’s responsibility, Albee said.

Planning board members found the revised project meets all criteria in China’s ordinances.  They decided no public hearing was needed.

Albee said the project should be built this summer and in operation by fall.

After acting on the solar farm, board members, Selectmen Ronald Breton and Joann Austin and Codes Officer Paul Mitnik reviewed some of the proposed ordinance changes that will be subjects of a July 26 public hearing.

Mitnik said the proposed changes are on the town website.  Board members asked Austin to submit her suggestions for additional changes in writing before the hearing, at which they intend to solicit residents’ input.

The July 26 hearing will be held at China Middle School to accommodate the expected crowd and will probably begin around 6:30 p.m.  It will be preceded by a 6 p.m. public presentation by Colin Clark, shoreland zoning expert with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The planning board will not meet July 12, there being no pending applications.


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