Vassalboro Planning Board members listened to preliminary plans for what might become the town’s fourth commercial solar development, this one on Webber Pond Road. No action was expected and none was taken.
Bill French, from Illinois, Regional Director of Project Development for Sunvest Solar, based in Pewaukee, Wisconsin (“outside Milwaukee,” French explained), presented the proposal virtually.
He expects to have an application ready for review at the June planning board meeting. Depending on progress in negotiations with Central Maine Power Company and other factors, building might start in 2021, but a 2022 start date is more likely.
French said the solar panels will occupy 18.64 acres of a 34.4-acre parcel on the east side of Webber Pond Road, not far south off the Bog Road intersection. Sunvest is leasing the lot from David and Jennifer Jones on a 25-year lease, with two five-year extensions possible.
The panels will be in two sections, with an east-west line of trees between them left standing. Light-absorbing, non-glare solar panels, six or seven feet tall, will rotate to follow the sun. Because the land slopes gradually, no grading is needed.
Sunvest plans to plant native plants, especially flowering ones that will attract bees and other pollinators, under the panels and to mow the area once or twice a year. French said he intends to consult local people on appropriate plants for central Maine.
The project will have no buildings and no outside lighting. There will be little traffic, maybe one or two inspections a month and maintenance work a couple times a year.
Sunvest plans an eight-foot fence around the installation, French said. Planning Board Chairman Virginia Brackett mentioned the deer fence, rather than chainlink, proposed for a pending installation on Cemetery Street and asked about leaving holes near the bottom to allow small animals to go in and out.
In response to other board members’ comments and queries, French said he will find out what state permits he needs, perhaps from the Department of Environmental Protection or the Department of Transportation, and will work with town officials to provide a mutually satisfactory decommissioning plan.
The panels should be useful for at least 25 years, perhaps longer, he said. The 2.75-megawatt project will generate enough electricity to power 550 homes.
Vassalboro planners have previously approved two solar projects, one on Riverside Drive (Route 201) and one on Main Street (Route 32) between East and North Vassalboro. An application for a third on Cemetery Street will probably be on the May 4 planning board agenda.
Board members had three other applications on their April 6 agenda. According to Brackett, they:
- Approved an amendment to the Stone Road subdivision allowing two lots to be combined;
- Approved expansion of a deck at 201 Tilton Lane, in the Webber Pond shoreland zone; and
- Approved Elizabeth Austin’s planned juice bar on Main Street, in North Vassalboro.
Codes Officer Paul Mitnik, who is retiring for the third time, said former Codes Officer Richard Dolby will be his successor, taking over for the May 4 meeting.
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