April 08, 2020
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Developer wants to put up more than 10,000 solar panels in Ellsworth

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
Solar panels, similar to these in Tremont, will line a site on Mariaville Road in Ellsworth, if a proposal is approved.

A New Hampshire-based developer wants to build a solar array of 10,900 panels, producing about 4.3 megawatts of electricity on Route 180 in Ellsworth, according to a proposal before city planners.

Sunraise Investments, based in Portsmouth, would build the project on two campuses — one 28.92 acres and the other 11.6 acres — on what’s known locally as Mariaville Road near its intersection with Route 1A, after it forms a limited liability corporation, Mariaville Road Ellsworth Solar, LLC, to handle the project.

The solar farm’s size and output fall in line with an effort by the Maine Legislature to beef up the state’s distributed solar-energy generation capacity by granting monetary credits to municipalities and businesses that develop solar projects with the capacity to generate as much as 5 megawatts of electricity, said Steve Weems, executive director of Solar Energy Maine, a Brunswick-based nonprofit advocacy group for solar power.

“This is a typical project consistent with what the new state of Maine solar policy is designed to encourage,” Weems said. “It is right in the wheelhouse of what the state is trying to encourage developers to do.”

The solar array would include a battery facility to store electricity, according to the permit application. The two parcels would each be bordered by 7-foot-tall chain-link fences, and the areas under the panels will be converted to meadows that will be mowed two or three times annually.

The anticipated life of the project would be 20 to 35 years. The farm would be decommissioned and disassembled by the developer upon the end of that life, according to the company’s application.

“Having a battery storage facility as part of the overall project will help match up the demand for electricity with its generation,” Weems added. “The generation may be in the middle of the day when the sun is out but the demand might be in the evening, so you want to have some short-term storage to maximize the benefits of distributed generation.”

The incentives for the developer include the possibility of contracts with Central Maine Power or Emera Maine, awarded by the Maine Public Utilities Commission through a competitive bidding process that would allow developers to sell electricity to the two investor-owned utilities at a set rate over 20 years, Weems said.

The project would be Sunraise’s first in Maine, Weems said.

Developers at Sunraise did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

The Legislature won’t know how many developers the initiative will draw to Maine until the PUC receives the first round of competitive bids, probably by this fall, Weems said.


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