Participants attending an Open House event at Southern Maine Aviation at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport on Tuesday checked out plans for NextEra's $69 million solar farm. The company plans to begin construction in 2018 with a view to begin generating power by 2019. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Participants attending an Open House event at Southern Maine Aviation at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport on Tuesday checked out plans for NextEra’s $69 million solar farm. The company plans to begin construction in 2018 with a view to begin generating power by 2019. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SANFORD — With the sign-offs in recent days by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense, a 50-megawatt solar array proposed by NextEra Energy at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport is now two steps closer to beginning construction.

The company plans to submit their final application for environmental permitting to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection soon, and if all goes well, that will be followed by the city permitting process.  Once those permits are in hand, installation of the estimated 200,000 solar panels on city-owned land at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport will begin in 2018. 

NextEra Energy Resources solar development project director for New England, Aaron Svedlow, said the company hopes to be up and running, generating power — for which the company already has sales agreements — sometime in 2019.

He estimated the cost of the Sanford project at $69 million.

Sanford residents and some from the surrounding area stopped by Southern Maine Aviation’s hangar at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport on Tuesday evening to talk to NextEra Energy Resources personnel about the project. The open house event served two purposes — to chat with local residents and to meet a requirement set forth by the permitting process.

Project Manager Liz Peyton said the company has been conducting wildlife surveys for the past couple of years, and engaged with Island Fisheries & Wildlife as part of their environmental permitting process.

Sanford City Manager Steve Buck in his Tuesday report to the Sanfor City Council said that the project completely avoids wetlands and vernal pools.

According to its website, NextEra is a competitive wholesale power generator  — not a public utility. The company operates a number of facilities, totaling more than 19,970 net megawatts, from power plants in 29 states and Canada, the website stated. The power is sold to companies and businesses  including utilities, retail electricity providers, power cooperatives, municipal electric providers and large industrial customers

“The lingering approvals have been contingent upon addressing the ‘Species of Special Concern’ that are present on or around the airport property to include sleepy dusky-winged moths, grasshopper sparrows, black racer snakes, bland turtles and others,” Buck wrote. 

The sign-off by the Department of Defense was necessary, NextEra officials   as the property was used by the U.S. navy during World War II.

The project was first proposed by Ranger Solar, which was purchased by NextEra earlier this year. 

NextEra Energy Resources, based in Florida, says in its online literature that  95 percent of its  electricity comes from clean or renewable resources including wind, solar, gas and nuclear — the company owns the nearby Seabrook Station nuclear facility in New Hampshire. 

NextEra is leasing an estimated 450 city-owned acres at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport, land for a substation near Cyro Drive and some additional l privately-owned land near Route 4.

The Sanford project is one of four either before the DEP for permitting or is expected to be by the end of the year. The three others are a 75 megawatt solar  project in Farmington, and 20 megawatt projects in Clinton and Fairfield, said Svedlow.

City officials say the project  will generate about $1.3 million annually in taxes and more — when the project is operational, land lease payments will enable the airport to become financially self-sufficient.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


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