Holden is on track to have its third solar array in town after a solar developer secured the town planning board’s approval for a 27-acre installation.
Downeast Solar LLC has now begun coordinating with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to build the panels that will generate 4.5 megawatts of power, according to Holden Town Manager Benjamin Breadmore.
Four-and-a-half megawatts of solar power can power 738 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Aviest Engineering, the company that Downeast has contracted to construct the panels, will begin logging in the fall, Breadmore said. The array will be on the backlot of Holden’s DeBeck Business Park off Route 1A, which Breadmore estimates will be finished sometime in fall 2022.
The array will include the panels, the panels’ structural base, fencing and driveway leading up to the installation, but it’s uncertain where the solar power will go, as Downeast Solar will have the ability to sell it, Breadmore said.
“It’s a private business. They could sell to Holden residents or to other Maine residents,” he said.
Downeast Solar’s business agent didn’t respond to a voicemail left at her Portland office Wednesday.
Holden’s two other solar arrays on Eastern Avenue and Main Road generate a total of 7 megawatts of power. Along with the Downeast array, the 11.5 megawatts would be more than enough to power all Holden homes and businesses, Breadmore said.
Maine has seen a flood of new solar projects in recent years following the 2019 expansion of incentives to build such projects through the state’s net energy billing program. The state had nearly 246 megawatts of solar capacity installed this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, with about two-thirds of the capacity having been installed since 2019. The association ranked Maine 21st in the nation for expected growth in solar over the next five years.
Now, a new law adds requirements before medium solar arrays such as the one pending in Holden can take advantage of net energy billing, which gives small- and medium-sized solar developers credits for excess power they supply to the grid.
Supporters of the legislation, which became law without Gov. Janet Mills’ signature on July 1, hope the new requirements slow down the pace of new solar projects in an effort to contain costs to ratepayers.