Maine regulators on Tuesday approved the winning proposal for a large solar power generation project in Hancock County that will deliver inexpensive electricity to Maine ratepayers over a 10-year period.
Three Rivers Solar Power LLC’s solar project, which is under development, won among the six companies vying for approval. The Maine Public Utilities Commission also directed its staff and Emera Maine to develop a final contract with Three Rivers.
The solar photovoltaic project will be on the ground. It will have a capacity of up to 100 megawatts and is scheduled to be in commercial operation no later than Dec. 31, 2021, according to a PUC filing Tuesday afternoon.
The solar system will connect into Emera Maine’s delivery system.
PUC spokesman Harry Lanphear said the solar array should save Maine ratepayers money. The first year of the contract calls for a price of 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour, and the price will increase every year until the tenth year, when it will be 4.37 cents per kilowatt hour.
Lanphear said the 3.5 cents is less than ISO New England wholesale rate of 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour in October 2018.
“The 3.5 cents is a very good deal for ratepayers,” he said.
“It’s a great benefit,” said Dave Fowler, owner and developer of Swift Current Energy, an investment company based in Boston with an office in Yarmouth. “And it’s great this power will be purchased in Maine.” Swift Current is the parent company of the Three Rivers project.
Fowler said his company will invest up to $150 million into the project and hire 50 to 100 local people to construct the project. Long term, however, it will take only a couple people to run it.
The project is located in the Unorganized Territories at Township 16, middle division, on property owned by forestry company Elliott Jordan & Son Inc.
Because it is in the Unorganized Territories, Fowler had to get a permit from the Land Use Planning Commission. With that permit granted, he now will apply to the Department of Environmental Protection for a permit this spring.
Lanphear said Emera Maine will work with New England Power Group to get the solar electricity into the New England market. Any money that Emera Maine makes on the electricity sale goes back to ratepayers, Lanphear said.
The commission said in its filing that it approved the project because “the project presents a significant likelihood of providing ratepayer benefits over the term of the agreement to outweigh the risk inherent in long-term contracting.”
The project will be located on 1,115 leased acres in Hancock County. It will interconnect with Emera Maine’s Line 93, a 115-kilovolt transmission system at a newly constructed substation located about 3 miles east of the existing Bull Hill substation and about 7.5 miles west of the Deblois substation.
The PUC said Three Rivers will retain all environmental attributes of the project, including any renewable energy credits.