PITTSFIELD — A 41,000-panel solar array has gotten the green light to go forward and become at least partially operational by the end of the calendar year.

Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro, said site development for what will be the largest solar array in the state is mostly complete.

He said foundation work for racking will begin in the near future, and panels will arrive and be installed after that. Part of the project will go online by late 2017, and Vigue said more panels will be installed over the spring.

Environmental regulators approved the $24.2 million project in June, and this week the Maine Public Utilities Commission allowed Cianbro to enter into a long-term partnership with Central Maine Power Co. Vigue said Cianbro responded to a request for proposals from the PUC and was selected for this project. The approval they received this week was a final step.

Cianbro’s 57-acre solar farm will be off U.S. Route 2. The project will generate a maximum of 9.9 megawatts. CMP will pay 8.45 cents per kilowatt-hour for that electricity over a 20-year contract.

Vigue said Monroe, in Waldo County, had originally been proposed as the project site, but the Pittsfield location proved to be more attractive. Since Cianbro is based in Pittsfield, Vigue said it made more sense to locate the project there. He said a desire to boost Pittsfield’s economy was a factor in the decision. The town  lost its second-largest employer, UTC Fire & Security,  in 2015, and another large employer, San Antonio Shoe factory, closed in 2008.

“We believe we could have a significant impact on the community by doing this here locally,” Vigue said.

The Pittsfield location is also closer to an electricity substation, which also made it more attractive, he said.

“It’s a piece of property for the most part we owned, so it made a lot more sense,” Vigue said.

The company employs over 1,350 people in Maine, Vigue said, and is continuing to hire.

The fenced-in 57 acres are part of a larger 113-acre parcel of woodlands, grass and some structures.

When the solar farm was expected to be in Monroe, CMP would have negotiated contracts with both Cianbro Development Corp. and Clear Energy LLC.

The project is expected to be fully operational by spring 2018. When it does, the Pittsfield array will be the largest in the state, surpassing the size of the 26,000-panel farm at the Madison Business Gateway, which occupies about 22 acres and generates about 5 megawatts.

The Pittsfield solar project is one of many in the region. Colby College, in Waterville, expects to have a 5,300-panel, 1.8-megawatt photovoltaic energy project ready for the fall.

Two large-scale utilities are in the works in the central Maine towns of Fairfield and Clinton. The farms would generate enough power for 6,000 out-of-state homes combined and create more than 200 jobs locally.

Ranger Solar, based in Yarmouth, plans to generate 20 megawatts of power at each site, selling the energy to buyers in Connecticut.

The exact locations of the farms have not been released, but each is expected to cost around $20 million.

Ranger Solar also is planning to bring a utility-scale solar farm to Farmington that could break ground in 2018 and eclipse the size of any solar installation now operating in Maine.

Other schools in the region also have turned to solar arrays to offset energy costs.

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.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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