STRONG — One of the largest solar power producers in the country plans to expand its footprint in the state with a $10 million development on Norton Hill.

The Planning Board reviewed a proposal Thursday night for the 20-acre solar development on Route 234. Ryan Bailey, project developer for Borrego Solar, presented information to members.

“We do not have an application,” Chairman Jeff Murphy said. “This is a preliminary presentation.”

In June 2019, the Maine Senate voted 32-2 to pass a bill to advance distributed solar generation for small-scale projects. Qualifying sites can be up to 20 acres and can generate up to five megawatts.

Borrego Solar, with northeastern headquarters in Lowell, Massachusetts, has been building solar projects around the country for 40 years and is ready to work with Maine customers interested in this renewable energy source, Bailey said. They look at sites near transmission infrastructure and efficient siting potential. One of the two dozen sites that meet such standards is in Strong.

The company proposes to lease 20 acres from Dick and Barbara Worthley. Because the land is in the state’s Tree Growth tax program, they will incur a penalty for the change in use.

The panels will be owned by Borrego Solar.

The project is estimated to cost $10 million, Bailey said.

The company tries to use local contractors for some initial construction, but the panels, once installed, are monitored and maintained remotely, he said.

“We work with CES civil engineering firm, so you’ll see their name on a lot of the paperwork we’ll be sending you,” Bailey said.

Contractors will clear the land, install a seven-foot fence around the perimeter and build a 14-foot-wide access road. The ground will be covered with a wildflower meadow that won’t require mowing, and the completed site will have very little traffic, Bailey said.

Individual solar units will be grouped into larger panels as acreage allows. Those panels rest on six-foot auger posts drilled 2 to 4 feet into the soil. Each panel is adjusted at the most efficient height and angle, and even in winter, snow won’t stay much more than a day on these panels, he said.

Although the state has approved selling solar power to municipalities, hospitals, colleges and public utilities like Central Maine Power Co., every step has to be approved at the state level.

The Planning Board will require a standard application and will oversee adherence to local requirements, including access road standards and notifications to abutting property owners.

Borrego Solar will secure permits required by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

All solar power companies are waiting for the Maine Public Utilities Commission to finalize rate structures and related regulatory requirements. Although companies could begin building on approved sites, they won’t be able to sell power either directly to customers or to Central Maine Power, which will deliver the electricity, until the PUC completes that final step, Bailey said.

The transmission lines from the panels will run underground to equipment that converts the power to CMP poles.


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