LIMESTONE, Maine — The Loring Development Authority and Yarmouth-based Ranger Solar are moving ahead with a lease agreement that paves the way for New England’s largest solar power project.
The LDA, which oversees the Loring Commerce Centre business park at the former Air Force Base, and the solar company announced the deal Tuesday. Under the agreement, Ranger would lease 600 acres of land at the Loring Commerce Centre for a solar panel array that could total 100 megawatts, making it the largest in Maine and New England.
“We feel this project is a great fit for Loring Commerce Centre, as it will utilize previously impacted lands and does not conflict with other uses of the property,” said Aaron Svedlow, Ranger’s permitting director.
“We are grateful to the Loring Development Authority for their support and look forward to a strong partnership in bringing new economic development to Aroostook County.”
The project would use more than 100,000 solar panels and could power between 20,000 and 30,000 homes, Svedlow said.
He said that Ranger is exploring the possibility of selling the power through multiple utilities, including locally in Aroostook County as well as in southern Maine or New England. To sell the power south, the company would either send the power through grid connections that route through New Brunswick and back into Maine, or connect to the ISO New England grid. But whether or not the power is exported, Svenson said the plan is to sell some of the power locally.
The company is in the early stages of the lease, examining site locations, and hopes to begin construction in 2019, he said. The project would employ around 300 people during construction and have four to five permanent long-term positions operating and maintaining it.
Svedlow said Ranger first approached the LDA in 2015 with the idea. While the project would occupy about 15 percent of the Loring business park’s 3,800 acres, LDA president and CEO Carl Flora said it will not affect any existing or future aeronautical uses.
“The LDA is excited to be working with Ranger Solar on the project; we have been consistently impressed with Ranger’s commitment to bringing solar to Northern Maine as well as their professionalism in working to achieve the objectives of the LDA and the region,” Flora said in a media release.
The Loring Commerce Centre is already home to nearly 1,000 solar panels, installed in 2012 and 2014, which generate power that is used at the park or sent into the grid.