Vassalboro planners approve another solar array

by Mary Grow

At their June 1 meeting, Vassalboro Planning Board members unanimously approved another solar array, this one west of Cemetery Street, between East and North Vassalboro.

They were assisted by Codes Officer Paul Mitnik, whose third retirement at the beginning of April lasted through one meeting. Board members welcomed him back.

Owens A. McCullough, Senior Vice-President at Sebago Technics, of South Portland, and Tiffiny Chase, Director of Development for New England Solar Garden (NESG), of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, explained their proposal to the board and, at first, to two neighbors. McCullough’s map showed the neighbors’ house is well away from the solar panels, and they left, satisfied.

McCullough and Chase’s colleague, Michael Redding, made a preliminary presentation at the Jan. 5 Vassalboro Planning Board meeting (see The Town Line, Jan. 14, 2021, p. 3).

The solar panels will be on about 26 acres of a lot leased for 20 years (with up to four five-year extensions) from Nicholas and Katie Jose. McCullough said the connection to the Central Maine Power Co. (CMP) grid will be to CMP’s distribution line; there will be no power line to Cemetery Street. Vehicle access from the street will be by a 20-foot-wide gravel driveway over an existing right-of-way.

Like other solar developments, NESG’s will include no buildings, use no water, generate no sewage or trash, have no lights, make little noise (a low hum, McCullough said, audible within 50 feet of the transformer pad) and have little traffic once construction is finished. The panels will have an anti-glare coating, and the frames have been changed to be non-reflective.

The ground under the panels will be planted with native plants, including types to attract pollinators, and mowed once or twice a summer. The fence around the development will be knotwire (orchard) fencing, not chainlink, with larger holes to let foxes and other predators inside to keep mice under control.

McCullough is negotiating with CMP, and will need state Department of Environmental Protection permits. He expects getting the contract and permits lined up will take most of 2021, perhaps longer, making the start of construction in early 2022. Construction is expected to take up to three months.

Sebago Technics is a civil engineering and land development consultant company that assists developers like NESG. NESG projects are mostly community solar developments. Chase said towns, schools, businesses and individual property-owners can sign up to buy a share, thereby reducing the power part of their electric bills.

When the NESG’s Cemetery Street project is getting ready to go on line, Chase said, a company called Arcadia will be sending mailings to seek customers. Arcadia has an on-line site that explains how it contributes to expanding use of renewable energy sources.

In other business June 1, Mitnik reported no pending applications for a July planning board meeting. Board members agreed that unless at least one application is received by the June 22 deadline, they will cancel the July meeting.

Mitnik had emailed a suggested addition to the Site Review Ordinance application, asking applicants for a business description or plan. Board member Douglas Phillips welcomed the proposal, and said changing an application form does not require voters’ action.


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