Farmington Selectman Stephan Bunker, left, and Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser, right, view a photo of proposed solar panel areas for the Farmington Solar Project during a public meeting Wednesday.  

FARMINGTON — Most residents at a public meeting on the proposed Farmington Solar Project on Wednesday viewed the nearly $100 million investment in renewal energy as a potentially positive development for the town.

“We’ve got to get away from coal and oil,” Susan McPherran said as she viewed displays on the project. “I wrote a poem about the end of oil 50 years ago. We could see the end of oil then,” she said.

For some attendees, the project’s potential increase for the town’s tax base, proposed millions in new property taxes over the project’s 20-year life span, sounded like a good thing, but they were there to learn more.

The project is slated for 600 acres at Sandy River Farms on Route 2 and surrounding acreage in the vicinity of Hovey Road, Horn Hill Road, Bailey Hill Road and Davis Road. Collection lines and a substation would connect the project to the electric grid at the Central Maine Power Sturtevant Station on Route 2. The photovoltaic panels would cover about 320 acres.

The project was started about two years ago by Ranger Solar of Yarmouth, project manager Liz Peyton said. It was recently acquired by NextEra Energy, which owns and operates numerous power generating facilities across the United States and Canada.

After undertaking environmental studies of the property, the company is expected to file for licenses through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection before the end of the year. They will likely seek licensing through the town’s Planning Board after the new year, Peyton said.   

The public meeting Wednesday was considered a requirement for DEP licensing, she said. Several company representatives were answered questions and advised residents how they can provide feedback throughout the process. 

The feedback seems positive, James Cote of Farmington, a consultant for NextEnergy, said at the meeting. With any project, there is usually some opposition but there seems to be modest concern from the large gathering here, he said.

Tree harvesting on Bailey Hill, being done by Sandy River Farm landowner L. Herbert “Bussie” York, and the potential impact to wildlife and drainage, were concerns of Bailey Hill residents April and Jeff Kerr.

Cote said the cutting has nothing to do with this project and that the company has no permits to begin any work.

While noting York’s right to undertake a project on his property, neighbor Terry Mosher said he gained a better understanding of the proposal from the displays. York has generously allowed his family and neighbors to hunt on the property, he said, which is something he hoped could continue.

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Rich Jordan, left, an environmental consultant for NextEra Energy Resources, shares information about the proposed Farmington Solar Project during a public meeting Wednesday in Farmington.

As part of research on a proposed Farmington Solar Project, a test station was set up in the cornfields of Sandy River Farms. Data collected is forwarded to California, L. Herbert “Bussie” York, owner, recently said.

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