A solar array similar to this one in Ludlow, Vermont, will soon be under construction on 420 acres of city-owned land at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport. Project Manager Liz Peyton, shown here at the Ludlow site, said the project will generate 50 megawatts of power.
COURTESY PHOTO/NextEra Energy Resources

SANFORD — With all required state and federal permits now in hand, the Sanford Solar Energy Project is ready for construction, with the target date of a March ground-breaking, weather permitting.

Capital construction costs are currently estimated by NextEra Energy Resources officials at $69 million. The array is to be located on a portion of 420 acres the company is leasing from the City of Sanford at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport.

When complete, the array is poised to deliver 50 megawatts of energy, enough to power 8,000 homes, company officials estimate..

The energy produced, said Project Manager Liz Peyton, is already under contract. The project was chosen  through a competitive bid in 2017, and is designed to provide power in parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

A solar array similar to the Coolidge Solar Energy Center in Ludlow, Vermont, shown here in this October photo, will soon be under construction at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport. About 177,000 solar panels will be installed on 420 acres of city-owned land. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Peyton, in a recent phone interview, said NextEra is in the process of choosing a general contractor for the Sanford project. Construction is expected to take one year.

“The current plan is to flip the switch in 2020,” said Peyton of the Sanford array.

About 170,000 solar panels will be installed on about 250 of the 420 acres the company is leasing for the project, Peyton said.

Installing the solar panels will generate at least 100 construction jobs, Peyton said. A similar, but smaller project in Ludlow, Vermont that went online at the end of December, employed 130 construction workers. The Coolidge Solar Energy Center provides 20 megawatts of solar power, using slightly more than 83,000 solar panels, according to an October story in the Vermont Journal.

Once construction is complete, a few people will be employed to oversee the Sanford solar array, said Peyton. She said the company is working with the city on operational and maintenance jobs.

Sanford City Manager Steve Buck said the $300,000 the city will receive annually in land lease revenue will allow the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport to be self-sufficient.

As well, the project could provide the city with an estimated $1.3 million or more annually in tax revenue, as the projected value currently stands, Buck estimated.

The project is said to be the largest solar array on an airport anywhere in the United States.

NextEra had earlier projected a start date of fall 2018, but state environmental permitting took longer than expected. The state permits were approved in January. Both the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense approved the plan in late 2017. Sign-off by the Department of Defense was also necessary, as the property was used by the U.S. Navy during World War II.

It was the company’s partnership with the city that kept the project moving along, Peyton said.

“This project is a really good example of a public- private partnership,” she said.

As well as the Sanford project, NextEra, headquartered in Juno Beach, Florida, is pursuing construction of a 77 megawatt, $110 million solar array on a farm in Farmington as well as projects in central Maine, said Peyton.

As of December 2017, NextEra Energy Resources has more than 2,035 megawatts of solar generating capacity, representing facilities in 16 states, one Canadian province and one province in Spain, according to information posted on the company’s website.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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