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Lewiston Planning Board backs $11 million solar project for Old Webster Road

  • Sep 28, 2021 11:05 am GMT
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Source: 
Sun Journal

Sep. 28—LEWISTON — The Planning Board approved an $11 million solar project for a field off Old Webster Road on Monday night.

A subsidiary of Maryland-based developer EDF Renewables, which has more than 20 gigawatts of developed projects in North America, proposed the 4.99-megawatt project, according to a development review application.

The board voted 6-0, according to City Planner Doug Greene. Plans call for a 29-acre solar array by Hayworth Solar Partners with about 15,184 panels.

Allen Tate, associate director of project development for EDF Renewables, based out of its New Hampshire office, said the company has between five and 10 projects in Maine in different stages.

It scouts for sites by looking for property near substations or three-phase electrical lines, then reaching out to landowners to gauge interest in a solar development lease.

"Another nice thing with this site is we're able to see through aerial photographs that it's largely a pretty open area that we wouldn't have to do much tree-clearing on — that's always a benefit," said Tate, who walked the area Monday. "It's relatively flat, so easy to work with. And then it also is surrounded by a pretty good wood buffer on all sides that we're going to be leaving in place. It was attractive from that standpoint because it reduces the likelihood about any neighboring concerns about not wanting to look at a solar project or things along those lines."

The property is described in the application by consultants TRC Environmental Corp. as former agricultural land. It's a total of 55.6 acres with Hayworth leasing up to 35. One side of the property and project borders I-95 and will be visible in late fall and winter, when trees lose their leaves.

Development will be set back at least 100 feet from the four streams on site, according to the application. The project will be bordered by 7-foot tall fixed-knot agricultural fencing. Power will connect to a Central Maine Power Co. distribution line on Old Webster Road in a mix of underground and overhead lines.

The land had most recently been leased to tenants with a greenhouse, which has since been removed, Tate said.

"We're hoping to start construction next year," he said. "The timeline for commercial operation by the end of next year is our goal; the one thing about that though is the site is included in a transmission cluster study that Central Maine Power and ISO New England are conducting. There's a number of projects in the region that are triggering some needs to evaluate interconnection protection devices or wiring upgrade, things like that, that the projects would need to install to ensure the grid's ongoing safe operations. So we can't actually start construction until that study is completed."

According to the presentation given to the board, an average of 20 to 100 temporary jobs are created during construction, based on EDF's national experience.

Construction is estimated to take nine months.

Lewiston has welcomed a number of solar projects in the last year, including, a 3.875-megawatt solar array on Taylor Hill Road, three projects by NextGrid Inc. totaling more than 10 megwatts and a 20-megawatt, 101-acre project off Sabattus Street estimated to bring in $500,000 in taxes annually.

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(c)2021 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

Visit the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine) at www.sunjournal.com

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