LEWISTON — The Lewiston Planning Board has approved three commercial solar power projects around the city that would mean more than $13 million in investment.

Now, it’s question of whether the state picks the projects to go ahead later this summer.

“We are thrilled to be permitted in Lewiston,” said Daniel Serber, director of development at NextGrid, the solar company behind the proposals. “We are looking forward to working with local labor to build three great projects.”

The projects:

• A 4.004 megawatt solar array covering 17.25 acres at 1043-1045 Main Street;

• A 1.879 megawatt solar array covering 9.55 acres at 1875 Lisbon Street; and

• A 5.297 megawatt solar array covering 19.81 acres at 265 Merrill Road.

City Planner Doug Greene said the board unanimously approved all three projects Monday night.

When some neighbors requested additional trees and landscaping to block the view of the panels, “(Serber) was very accommodating,” Greene said. “He multiple times talked about wanting to be a good neighbor.”

Ideally, the acres of panels won’t dominate the landscape, which he said board member Shanna Cox called a “‘peekaboo effect’ — so people could see it, but not be all solar panels from the road.”

“Staff will be working with engineers from the project to finish out where the best locations for screening is going to go,” Greene said.

The Merrill Road build is going on a 215-acre parcel, he said, but there are no plans for additional solar projects there. The city is due to repair that road this year, and if the solar panel work damages those repairs, NextGrid will pick up that tab to bring it back into shape, Greene said.

The board also dealt with exit strategy. At the end of the project life, which is about 20 years, or after they’ve been inactive for 12 months, NextGrid will “take care of all the costs to remove all the panels and return it to a more natural state,” Greene said.

Serber said NextGrid, which is based out of both Massachusetts and San Francisco, has 14 solar projects in various stages of development in Maine: Three in Lewiston, two in Bangor and one each in Mechanic Falls, Poland, Auburn, Biddeford, Howland, Waterville, Monroe, Manchester and Winslow.

It’s submitted 10 of those projects for consideration in the first round of the Maine Public Utilities Commission‘s competitive procurement process for projects up to 5 MW.

“We are expecting to hear which of our projects were chosen sometime before September,” Serber said.


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