Ben Axelman explains the plan for a proposed solar project in Woodstock. Bethel Citizen photo by Alison Aloisio

WOODSTOCK — A proposed $10 million solar energy project that could save Woodstock residents 10 percent on their electric bills is expected to come before the Planning Board in February.

The Felt Road Solar Project was introduced informally to about 30 people attending an informational meeting at the Town Office last week. The plan was presented by Solar Development Manager Ben Axelman of Nexamp, the Massachusetts company that would design, build and operate the facility. It would be on land leased from Sharon Silver and would be accessed off Cushman Road, Axelman said.

The lease would be for 20 years, with an option to renew it for another 20. The 5-megawatt project, big enough to power about 1,000 homes, would encompass about 30 acres and would feature roughly 1,100 “racks” of 14 photovoltaic cells each, he said.

Each rack would be approximately 30 feet long and would rest on a steel stanchion. They would be tilted to the south, with the bottom of the racks about 2.5 feet off the ground and the tops about 8½ to 9 feet up.

Power generated by the cells would be converted to a voltage compatible with the nearby power grid line, and would be carried there by underground wires. An “inverter” would do the conversion and would generate some noise, Axelman said, but it would be no louder at property lines than the current level of sound.

The project would be about 150 feet off public roads.

In addition to the Planning Board, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection will also review the proposal. In response to questions from the audience, Axelman said the solar cells are silicon based and do not have the chemicals that some other types do. He also said that any electromagnetic fields emitted by the inverter would be no more than currently generated by nearby power lines.

Asked about glare from the cells, he said they are designed to absorb light, not reflect it, and such cells are present on the roof at Logan Airport in Boston. A bond would be put in place to cover decommissioning costs of the project at the end of its life, he said.

Several abutters at the meeting expressed concern about being able to see the racks from their homes. Axelman said his company would work with them to plant buffer trees. A 7-foot-high fence is planned around the perimeter of the project.

Axelman described the solar project as a community one, and Woodstock residents would be able to subscribe to it. They would receive a 10 percent discount on their electricity. Rates would be set this summer by auction, and he said he expected them to be competitive with Central Maine Power’s standard offer rates. He said all the power generated would be used in CMP territory, not sent to southern New England.

If approval is given, said Axelman, construction would likely take place this fall or in the spring of 2021 and would take about three months. Nexamp has a total of 10 solar projects in development in Maine, he said. The cost has come down so much that state subsidies are no longer required, making Maine more attractive for such projects.

Several people at the Woodstock meeting praised the company’s presentation, saying the solar project appeared less likely to have the negative impact that some people see in wind power projects.


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