MADISON — Madison Electric Works is the latest utility company to propose what would be the largest solar panel project in the state if it is built.

The publicly owned utility company is seeking proposals for a 4-megawatt solar project to be located in the Madison Business Park. The company would buy power from the bid winner at a fixed price for between 20 and 30 years, eventually purchasing the solar facility, said Calvin Ames, superintendent for Madison Electric Works.

In addition to Madison, a group in Gouldsboro is working on developing solar projects that would exceed Bowdoin College’s 1.2-megawatt solar farm, which is the largest in the state.

A plan for a 10- to 20-megawatt project in Winslow fell apart two weeks ago when the landowner and solar company couldn’t agree on contract terms. Ranger Solar of Delaware, with offices in Yarmouth, said it is looking for a new site in that town.

Madison Electric Works, a municipal department, provides electricity to about 2,300 customers, including the commercial greenhouse Backyard Farms. Ames said town officials were approached about eight months ago by a solar company out of New York interested in building a solar farm in Maine. He would not give the name of the company.

“We had a company come to us and actually make a proposal to build one and then, because we’re a nonprofit, we decided that we had to advertise a request for proposals,” Ames said.

The deadline for proposals is Jan. 15 and the company plans to award a contract by April 15.

“We wanted to leave time in case we have to negotiate,” he said. “We hope to have somebody actually out there working on the project as soon as the snow is gone.”

The project is estimated to cost about $8 million and would be located on about 15 acres of land owned by Madison Electric in the Madison Business Park. The cost of constructing the project would be paid for by the bidder, but it would provide a buy-out plan for Madison Electric.

The project is also expected to lower electricity rates for residential customers after about five years, Ames said, as one of the requirements for the project is to establish a set price for the next 20 years.

“At first we thought, ‘Oh we can’t afford to build solar,’ but then as they were talking to us it seemed more economical than we thought,” Ames said. “It looks like it could be very viable.”

The Madison project is one of at least three large solar projects that have been proposed in the last year. The project in Winslow prompted approval of a new ordinance by its town council that regulates solar projects.

In Hancock County, a Gouldsboro attorney is proposing a 2.8-megawatt solar installation that would provide power to The Jackson Laboratory.

“The more solar that goes up, the cheaper it becomes to put it up,” Ames said.


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