SANFORD, Maine — If all goes well, Ranger Solar will begin construction in 2018 on a 50-megawatt, utility-grade solar array designed to sell energy to the power grid.
The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to authorize City Manager Steve Buck to execute a land lease for 226 acres at Sanford Regional Airport to Ranger Solar LLC, which will do business locally as Sanford Solar LLC.
“This public-private partnership with Ranger Solar LLC is nothing short of phenomenal,” Buck told the council. He called the project a “very exciting and promising opportunity for development” at the 1,100- acre airport.
But he also cautioned that it will take time.
“This is a massive, complex and unique project that will need to overcome many hurdles to reach fruition and the background research, development, permitting, permissions and release form obligations will take us into 2018, when construction is currently slated to begin,” Buck said in a memo to the City Council.
Aaron Svendlow, project developer and director of environmental permitting for Ranger Solar, said the Sanford project is “highly constructible,” and that required environmental surveys are ongoing.
Svendlow said the Sanford project will be significantly larger than any solar array in Maine, and one of the largest in New England. The 50-megawatt facility will use 176,000 photovoltaic panels.
Terms of the land lease are modest in the development stage – a one-time $10,000 payment for up to four years, with an additional $5,000 payment if development goes into a fifth year.
But once construction begins, Buck said – whether it be in 2018 or later in the period – the rent increases considerably. In each of the first five years of production, the city would reap $700 an acre, increasing by $100 per acre after each five-year increment.
More lucrative for the city will be personal property taxes gained from the project, which Buck estimated at $680,000 annually on $29 million worth of taxable property.
Ranger Solar LLC is a limited liability company that was formed in Delaware in April 2015. State documents on file at the Bureau of Corporations list its principal office in New York City, with its Maine base in Yarmouth.
The company’s team includes a number of people with experience in renewable energy projects, including its president, Adam Cohen, who was a founding team member of Pioneer Green Energy, according to the Ranger Solar website.
The company had been pursuing a project on a privately-owned farm in Winslow, but news reports from last fall show that project is now on hold. Ranger Solar is also pursuing smaller, 20-megawatt projects in several Vermont locations.
Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport Manager Allison Rogers said the land to be leased is not critical to airport operations.
“It is in excess of our needs for the next 50 years,” she said.
The project has passed a critical “glint and glare” test required by the Federal Aviation Administration.