FRANKLIN – The planning agency unanimously approved a plan for a 12.24-acre commercial solar array on Hog Bay Road last Thursday. This is the fourth approved solar project in the city. Approval comes immediately following the approval of a solar project proposed by Consolidated Edison Development Inc. on December 10th, which will have locations on Hog Bay Road and Cards Crossing.
The project reviewed last week, a 2 megawatt farm to be built on Maine Coast Sea Vegetables Inc. property, was unveiled by Borrego Solar Systems Inc. on behalf of Hog Bay Solar, 1, LLC.
Ryan Bailey, a developer at Borrego, presented the project along with civil engineer David Albrecht, who attended the hearing through Zoom. Bailey stated that the land for the proposed project has a diverse history, including its use as a gravel pit. The package is approximately 62 acres, 12 of which will be used for the project. He said the site is on the “smaller end” compared to other proposed projects in the state.
The project “participates in a government incentive program” and will provide power to small and medium-sized businesses in the Versant Power district, Bailey said. According to the project's agreement with Versant, “We know we can connect the system together without making major network improvements,” he said.
Regarding agency concerns about whether an old cemetery near the project would still be accessible, Bailey said, “Paths [to the cemetery] will all remain accessible. “
Access is required due to Maine law that requires cities to maintain graves of veterans, the board said. Conditions for the approval of the project include the construction of soundproof walls on the north and west sides, where equipment such as transformers and inverters will be stored. This is to protect an adjacent property from noise disturbance and should bring the noise from the construction site to a background level.
Additionally, during the construction of the project, signage will be placed on the east and west sides of the access road to inform the public of the traffic of trucks entering the construction site.
Although the project was unanimously approved, CEO Brian Abbott said he was concerned that the solar panels were tax-free, but the projects, which are often multi-million dollar projects, could be included in the state-run assessment of the city.
He said increasing the rating could change what the city receives in government funding for public schools in the area. Abbott noted that one reason solar projects have popped up across the state is because of the 2019 legislation that was drafted and passed to encourage solar development.
The project proposed by Borrego participates in these programs, as Bailey stated in his presentation. According to Maine.gov, projects can range from installing solar panels on a residential roof to larger community projects. Incentives to participate include Net Energy Billing, which grants all electricity utility customers kilowatt-hour credits or dollar credits for non-residential electricity bills, according to the website.
Another incentive is called Distributed Generation. These include programs that allow customers to “balance their electricity bills based on the performance of small, renewable generators,” the website says.
Rebecca is the reporter from the Schoodic area, covering the cities of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and boy who were greeted with joy in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and ideas for stories to [email protected]