Encore Renewable Energy Senior Project Developer Spencer Egan, right, presents plans to the Wilton Planning Board for a solar farm on Pleasant Street Thursday, Aug. 19. If approved, construction on the project will run from November through June 2022. Kay Neufeld/Livermore Falls Advertiser

WILTON — A new solar farm may be coming to Wilton as the renewable-energy industry booms in Maine.

The Wilton Planning Board heard from Encore Renewable Energy’s senior project developer Spencer Egan on the Vermont-based company’s plans for a solar array on Pleasant Street during their Thursday, Aug. 19 meeting.

The project would take up 14.75 acres of land off Pleasant Street, east of the Temple Street intersection on pasture land owned by Richard Corey. Encore plans for construction on the project to run from November 1 through June, though the timeline could be impacted by winter weather and supply chains.

The solar farm would not serve Wilton residents, but rather send power to Central Maine Power Company that would credit six towns in Southern Maine, according to Egan.

The solar array would not be owned by Corey or Encore. Encore would sell the array to another owner at the end of construction. It is likely that Greenbacker Capital, a sustainable infrastructure investor would buy the project, Egan noted.

Egan said the “great part” of the project is that it would be “bringing clean energy” for a “new generation” and generate savings for local municipalities.

Planning Board members questioned the visual impact on the town.

The solar panels would be no more than 10 feet tall. Egan said that there would be around 7 acres of tree clearing on the land, but that the outskirts of the project area would be lined with arborvitae plantings alongside existing wood buffer to “provide screening” to the array.

Planning Board member Kyle Fletcher asked about traffic to the site.

During construction, there could be anywhere from 10 to 30 people on site at a time, peaking during 1.5 months of the six-month period, according to Egan. Once the solar farm is operating, Egan said there would not be “a lot of traffic” with only two to four site visits a year by the eventual project owners. There would also be a seven-foot-tall “agricultural-style fence” that fits “the rural character” of Wilton.

As for noise impact, Egan said that outside of the property, any noise from the solar panels or inverters would be “pretty much inaudible” in the daytime with no noise when the sun is down.

Neither Encore nor the eventual owners would have to pay local property taxes due to a tax exemption for renewable energy equipment such as solar. The project would not be using any municipal resources such as water, sewage, storm drain or solid waste disposal.

Encore has already received stormwater permit-by-rule approval from the Department of Environmental Protection and “all state permits required for this project.” The project awaits approval from the Planning Board.

The Planning Board will run a public hearing on the Pleasant Street Solar Farm on Thursday, Sept. 2, and deliberate on the project on Thursday, Sept. 16.

In other business, the board heard from Selectperson Tom Saviello, a lead petitioner for the No CMP Corridor Referendum, on an update for the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) corridor – also known as the CMP corridor.

In a state court ruling, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy found that “state public land officials failed to make a required finding that the lease would result in no reduction or substantial alteration to the public lands being leased and, therefore, the agreement was not valid,” according to Press Herald’s Edward D. Murphy.

In the Wilton Planning Board’s permit for the corridor, there is a condition that “NECEC’s permit is valid in Wilton so long as the project has all required state and federal permits,” as reported by Andrea Swiedom.

The board is considering sending a letter to Central Maine Power reminding them of this condition and depending on what happens in court, repealing the permit.

Code Enforcement Officer Charlie Lavin said to date, CMP has begun logging and spraying for pesticides in Wilton’s portion of the corridor, a two-mile stretch of agricultural fields and forest.

At this point, the board cannot revoke the NECEC permit or take other action because an appeal on the court ruling to the Maine Supreme Court has stayed all decisions, according to Saviello.

The controversial energy project would create a 145-mile corridor that transmits Hydro-Québec energy from the province of Québec, Canada to Massachusetts. The project has faced immense opposition among groups like No CMP Corridor for a variety of reasons such as environmental impacts and misappropriating indigenous land and resources.

In November, a question on the statewide ballot “will ask voters if they want to have all leases of public lands put before the Legislature, requiring a two-thirds vote for approval.” The referendum will have retroactive measures and potentially halt the NECEC project.

The planning board will revisit the issue of addressing CMP and revoking the permit in future meetings.

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