LEWISTON — Three commercial solar power projects on Lisbon and Main streets and Merrill Road, an investment of just under $15 million, will kick off construction here in the next three months, according to NextGrid Inc.

The company has another $6 million project planned for Poland and a $2 million project on deck in Minot.

Daniel Serber, director of development at NextGrid, said Friday that construction will start on Merrill Road using a crew of 25 to 35 temporary workers who will move from one site to the next. Each will take three to four months from start to finish with a roughly five-week stretch being the most labor-intensive.

NextGrid photo

“We love Lewiston and we’re really particularly happy to own land up on Merrill Road because it’s just gorgeous,” Serber said.

NextGrid, based out of Massachusetts and San Francisco, went before the Planning Board last April for approval.

The planned projects:

• A 4.6 megawatt array on 20 acres at 1043 Main St., Lewiston;

• A 4.6 megawatt array on 20 acres at 265 Merrill Road, Lewiston;

• A 2 megawatt array on 9 acres at 1875 Lisbon St., Lewiston;

• A 4.9 megawatt array on 20 acres at Lewiston Junction Road, Poland; and

• A 2 megawatt array on 10 acres at 498 West Minot Road, Minot.

Serber said construction at Merrill Road would be first followed by Poland, Lisbon Street, a project in Waterville and then Main Street. Minot is not yet scheduled but he hoped to see it start by the end of summer.

He anticipates the solar arrays to start coming online, getting permission to operate, starting in July with Merrill Road.

NextGrid has spent more than $1.5 million, on top of the solar development costs, buying four local sites and leasing the space in Minot.

The company will start a push soon to sign up customers as part of the state’s Net Energy Billing program. Serber estimated that homeowners committing to its solar power could save a minimum of 10% or more on the cost per kilowatt hour.

He said there’s no fee to sign up, no fee to opt out and locks in rates.

Maine Public Utilities spokeswoman Susan Faloon said Net Energy Billing projects are a way to support clean energy and potentially save money for people who aren’t able to have their own rooftop solar panels.

Savings vary and the PUC encourages “anyone considering this type of program to read the material carefully,” she said.

Project sponsors have to register with the state, which NextGrid has.

“Our target goal is to sign up 800 people before the start of construction” for each of the Merrill Road and Main Street projects, Serber said. “It feels very achievable.”

The fixed-tilt solar panels will be remotely monitored at the panel level once in place and sensitive enough to signal if the grass gets too high in between the twice-annual mows.

“Even if the weeds get too high, we would get an alert, ‘You’re getting shadows on the bottom of your panels’ and we would know it needs some cutting,” Serber said.

NextGrid has a contract to supply power with Central Maine Power Co. for 20 years but hopes to ultimately see the local projects run for 35 years, he said.

Lincoln Jeffers, Lewiston’s director of economic and community development, said the city has received a lot of solar interest and in addition to the projects already approved, has more in the wings.

“It does add to the tax base while putting very little demand on services,” he said. “Just as a state in general, we need alternative energy sources. I’ve been a big proponent of the Clean Energy Connect project all along and it’s not like we need solar or wind or hydro, we need all of the above and Lewiston should play its part as well.”

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