LEWISTON — A Massachusetts and San Fransisco-based developer has proposed building three solar array projects around the city, Lewiston’s first entries into commercial-scale solar, totaling more than $13 million in investment.

“We’re excited,” City Planner Doug Greene said Friday. “We’ve been waiting to see these kind of projects come in, and here they come.”

Included in NextGrid’s plans headed to the Planning Board on April 27:

• One 2.28 megawatt solar array on 12.2 acres on Lisbon Street, a $2.5 million project;

• One 4.2 megawatt solar array on 17 acres on Main Street, a $5.29 million project; and

• One 5.58 megawatt solar array on 19 acres on Merrill Road, also a $5.29 million project.

Greene said addresses will be released after abutter notifications go out in two weeks. The properties in each case are undeveloped areas chosen for “lesser amounts of exposure to public roads and nearby residences,” he said.

Solar panels will be about 6 feet long and no higher than 10 feet off the ground. Each project is independent and not tied to the other.

Daniel Serber, director of development at NextGrid, said the company has 11 proposals, its first in Maine, vying for winning bids in the first round of the Maine Public Utilities Commission‘s competitive procurement process for projects up to 5 MW.

That process spun out of the Maine Legislature’s “An Act to Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine,” passed last year.

The submission window opened Friday. Projects will be awarded in August.

In addition to the three Lewiston proposals, NextGrid has proposals in motion for community projects up to 5 megawatts in Mechanic Falls, Poland, Minot, Waterville, Howland, Jay and two in Bangor.

Lewiston’s population size and the price of land made it a desirable area, Serber said.

NextGrid has purchase options with the Lewiston landowners and it’s already teamed up with People Ready to hire for the project. Each site needs about 25 laborers.

“We hope that these projects get in on the first round and that we can start pulling building permits at the end of the summer, but if we don’t get in, we’ll have four other opportunities,” he said.

Greene said the NextGrid projects have both development review and conditional use applications with the Planning Board.

“We’re in communication with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to make sure that they’re meeting all the environmental requirements,” he added.

The city recently updated language in its code for solar energy systems, making those developments here easier to approve.

“All these discussions we’ve had have also triggered interest and discussions by the city to, in the future, look at city-owned properties potentially for other solar projects that could potentially be revenue-generating for the city or at least lower the cost of electricity for city properties,” Greene said.

That could include leasing city land or working with a developer.

“We’ve had solar companies, three or four different ones, knocking on our door and having meetings with city staff for the last year and a half,” Greene said. “There is other interest in other areas besides these (three NextGrid) sites.”

City Administrator Ed Barrett said Friday that Lewiston is well situated for solar.

“Generally, solar is something that we support given Lewiston is a key element in not only Maine’s electric grid, but that of New England,” he said. “If approved and constructed, these projects will add to our tax base and provide property owners in Lewiston and elsewhere in Maine with an alternative and renewable energy supply based here in Maine.”

Across the river, Auburn approved its first major solar project last month, a $17.6 million, 14.6 megawatt project.


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