Graphic submitted by CES

AUBURN — The Planning Board unanimously approved a $17.6 million solar project this week, 45 acres of panels over 142.7 acres, laid out to dodge wetlands and feed 14.6 megawatts into the grid to Central Maine Power.

The project by BD Solar Auburn is pending approval by the Poland Planning Board, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers.

About two-thirds of the property, off of Lewiston Junction Road, is in Auburn, one-third in Poland.

“We have the infrastructure for them to tie into the grid fairly easily and this parcel was not well suited for traditional industrial development because there’s a lot of scattered wetlands,” said Eric Cousens, Auburn’s deputy director of economic and community development. “They really adjusted to match the site and to minimize the impacts to the environmental side of it.”

The project will consist of 36,072 photovoltaic panels, according to the application by CES Inc. It’s affiliated with Dirigo Solar, which has a long-term contract with the Maine Public Utilities Commission to provide up to 75 MW of solar power in the state.

Sean Thies, a project representative from CES Inc., told the Planning Board on Tuesday that the majority of the land is right now wooded or recently harvested.

“We’ve weaved in and out of a lot of wetlands out there,” he said.

Thies estimated the project would start either in late fall or spring of 2021. Construction will take six to eight months.

The 8-foot-long panels will sit 2 to 4 feet off the ground, according to Cousens. They’ll largely be hidden from view by the trees but will likely be visible at abutting properties such as the Irving and Dead River distribution facilities and Auburn’s intermodal facility, he said.

The project was approved a week after Auburn adopted a new solar ordinance. The BD Solar project didn’t apply since its application had already been filed, but the company voluntarily met the standards of the new ordinance, Cousens said.

“Our approvals are only good if they get the other approvals,” he said. “They have a solid application and they met the standards on our side of the town line.”

Poland’s Planning Board will take up the project March 24.

Cousens said the city has been working hard to attract development that generates more in tax revenue than it uses in services and this project was a good example of that.

“I’d be surprised if we see another (solar project) that large anytime soon,” he said. “This one has been in the works for a while. We’re working on an ordinance that may expand the zones for that allow for solar projects, specifically the agricultural zone.”


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