WATERVILLE — The landfill on Webb Road may be the next location of a large-scale solar array, as the city and a Maine energy company are exploring a project that could ultimately sell energy out of state.

Garvan Donegan, an economic development specialist for the Central Maine Growth Council, a public-private collaborative group based in Waterville, said a lot of due diligence needs to be done, but the city is confident and pleased to enter into a partnership with a Falmouth-based energy company.

He said a 20-megawatt project on the capped landfill would likely be the largest such project on a closed landfill in the state, big enough to power 3,750 homes, and would cost the developer between $25 million and $30 million. The partnership also includes a smaller project on a different part of Webb Road also owned by the city.

“We’re thrilled about this project. We truly are,” Donegan said.

Greg Brown, the Waterville city engineer, said the city had been looking at solar projects for a number of years, but it didn’t want to become involved in a small-scale one and instead was more interested in facilitating one.

At the end of July, the City Council voted to allow a company to study the site for a potential project. That company is Gizos Energy LLC, which the resolution states is a Maine-based company with “extensive experience in developing solar projects.”

Gizos, which is the native Abenaki word for “sun,” lists only three employees.

Managing partner Robert Patton lists former associations with FPL Energy and First Wind. Partner and treasurer Annette Bossler has worked for organizations such as the Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative. Partner Laurenz Schmidt was formerly the chief technology officer at Fairchild Semiconductor in South Portland. There are no descriptions of past projects the company has been involved in.

A statement the company posted on its website Aug. 3 says the partnership between the company and the city is for “the potential development of two utility-scale solar facilities,” one being the 20-megawatt solar facility on the landfill, another a 5-megawatt facility also on Webb Road.

“Construction of the facilities will create a total of more than 175 jobs,” the statement says.

With normal time-frames for development and permitting, construction could start in early 2020, according to the statement.

Unequivocally, Brown said there will be a solar project on the landfill.

HELPING CITY’S REVITALIZATION

Patton said they have been working with the city for more than a year now, although the official formation of the company didn’t happen until this past spring. In that time, Patton said they had been “nibbling at different-sized projects.” In the spring they became affiliated with an international company to be its U.S. representative.

“We’re excited to work with the city,” Patton said, calling Waterville a “very forward-thinking” city.

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro said the partnership was “monumental for the city.” While looking at the long-term strategic vision for Waterville, which includes expanding the tax base, he said this was the best project for the space.

“After putting over a year of work into this, we’re potentially looking at land that is virtually unusable and costs us money and turning it into a revenue-generating landmass,” Isgro said. “The size and scope of this project really helps put Waterville on the map when it comes to renewable energy and innovation.”

Donegan and Patton said it would be determined later where the energy the project produces would be sold.

Gizos is described in the statement as a renewable energy company that focuses on developing utility-scale solar farms in the United State. It is the exclusive U.S. development partner for Germany-based hep energy GmbH, solar investment and engineering firm.

WATERVILLE NOT ALONE IN THE FIELD

Should the project go forward, the city of Waterville would join a crowded field of large-scale solar projects in central Maine.

Just last week, it was announced that part of what will be the state’s largest array, a 41,000-panel solar project in Pittsfield, would go online by the end of 2017.

Environmental regulators approved the $24.2 million project in June, and the Maine Public Utilities Commission allowed Cianbro to enter into a long-term partnership with Central Maine Power Co.

Cianbro’s 57-acre solar farm will be off Route 2 and will generate 9.9 megawatts of power. CMP will pay 8.45 cents per kilowatt-hour for that electricity over a 20-year contract. It is expected to be fully operational by the fall.

Once fully operational, the Pittsfield array will surpass the size of the 26,000-panel farm at the Madison Business Gateway, which occupies about 22 acres and generates about 5 megawatts.

Meanwhile Colby College in Waterville expects to have a 5,300-panel, 1.8-megawatt photovoltaic energy project ready for the fall.

Thomas College in Waterville partnered with ReVision Energy in 2012 to install 700 solar panels on the roof of the Alfond Athletic Center and entered into a power-purchasing agreement with ReVision, buying the electricity produced from the array on campus and then purchasing the system from ReVision at a reduced rate.

Nearby Unity College also partnered with ReVision, signing a power purchasing agreement to place a 144-panel solar array on the roofs of the Quimby Library and the Thomashow Learning Laboratories.

Bowdoin College has a 1.2-megawatt solar power complex in Brunswick.

A Yarmouth company continues to move ahead with plans to build a 50-megawatt solar farm at the Sanford municipal airport. The Sanford City Council approved the lease in May 2016.

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association launched its new array at the Common Ground Education Center on Crosby Brook Road in the spring, where more than 300 panels capable of producing 102 kilowatts are spread out over five barn roofs. The array is owned by ReVision Energy, and has entered a power purchasing agreement to buy power from ReVision at a fixed cost.

Colin Ellis can be contacted at 861-9253 or at:

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