Vassalboro planners study solar power application

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Planning Board members reviewed two preliminary applications for solar power development in town at their May 5 virtual meeting. They expect one to be ready for a public hearing (if needed) and perhaps final review at their June 2 meeting.

Both projects involve solar panels on metal supports inside a high fence with a locked gate (emergency access is provided for the fire department). Both are close to highways and to connections with Central Maine Power’s system.

The smaller and more nearly ready project is on land owned by Bernard Welch, at 515 Main Street, almost opposite Ron’s Auto parts. The developer is ReVision Energy, represented at the planning board meeting by Project Developer, Nate Niles, and Construction Project Manager, Al Copping.

The project will cover about four acres and will be a community solar farm like the one at Three Level Farm, in China, also developed by ReVision. Niles explained that customers as a group will sign a lease agreement with Welch, own the equipment and share power from the solar panels, with ReVision building and managing the project.

Construction normally takes two to three months, and Copping said the work is mostly “low noise” – the pile-drivers putting in the poles to support the panels are the noisiest equipment.

Niles added that solar projects make no demand on water supplies and generate no waste.

The solar farm is expected to run at least 25 years. Niles agreed with board Chairman Virginia Brackett’s suggestion that instead of decommissioning the project when the panels lose efficiency, usually after 30 or 40 years, new panels could be installed.

Board members discussed at length ways to give residents a chance to ask questions and make comments before the board makes its decision. They decided if ReVision’s final application is received soon enough, they could begin their June 2 meeting by determining if it is complete and, if it is, hold a public hearing by inviting advance input and instructing interested residents on ways to join the meeting virtually.

The larger project, to cover about 20 acres of a 28-acre site, is proposed by Longroad Energy Management LLC, represented by David Kane and by Kara Moody and Brooke Barnes from consulting firm Stantec. It is located at 2579 Riverside Drive, shown on maps as on the east side of the road a little south of the southern end of Burleigh Road (old Route 3).

Moody and Barnes said the project will include solar panels and auxiliary equipment; an existing access road will be extended farther into the property. Since the land is mostly agricultural, little clearing will be needed.

Moody said there is no definite timeline yet; she expects to present a revised plan later this spring.


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