The Woolwich planning board approved the $10 million, 30-acre solar project Monday. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

WOOLWICH — A 30-acre hay field in Woolwich will soon be filled with 19,000 solar panels as part of an estimated $10 million solar project.

The Woolwich planning board approved the project Monday. Construction on the solar field, which will sit between Route 1 and Nequasset Road, is slated to begin in June and take six to nine months to complete.

The solar farm is estimated to generate five megawatts of solar power, which could power about 760 homes, according to Allen Tate, project manager at Maryland-based EDF Renewables. The power generated will be distributed by Central Maine Power, but it can’t be purchased by local homeowners.

“This project is going to be selling energy by a credit to the CMP bill to several large customers in Maine,” said Tate. “We can’t release yet who those large customers are in Maine.”

Regardless of where the solar power will go after it’s generated, Evan Holbrook, who owns the land the solar project will be built on, said he’s excited to use his family’s farmland for an environmentally-friendly purpose.

“I think it’s a very interesting project and a great move for environmental reasons,” said Holbrook. “It’s clean energy and I’m all about that, that’s the driving force behind it all.”

Holbrook said he agreed to lease his property to EDF Renewables for an undisclosed amount after the company approached him.

“The more I heard the more I liked the idea,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in wind and solar power, and this is a good way to use the land.”

Although Tate estimated the project will cost between $10-11 million to build and develop, the town and Woolwich taxpayers won’t be responsible for footing the bill.

Woolwich residents aren’t likely to notice the solar field, Tate said, because the panels won’t be visible from public roads.

The equipment will not be taller than 16 feet or louder than 55 decibels, about as loud as a household refrigerator, from the abutting property line. From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., the noise level will drop to 45 decibels, roughly as loud as a library or suburban neighborhood, from the property line.

The solar field will sit 700 feet away from Nequasset Road and 200 feet away from the closest residence.

“I have no problem with the project,” said Debbie Locke, Woolwich planning board member. “It’s clean energy and we’re not going to see it. If they were putting up windmills, that might be more difficult to stomach.”

No one spoke in opposition of the project on Monday, but Tate said three people who live next to the property contacted him with questions over how loud the solar equipment will be and whether it will impact private access roads to abutting properties.

The solar field is anticipated to be in operation for 25-35 years.

“I think it’s a great project and we’re looking forward to entering into the Maine renewable energy market,” Tate said.

Solar farms and other renewable energy projects have cropped up throughout the state in recent years and are further encouraged by Gov. Janet Mills’ 4-year climate action plan, unveiled last month.

Mills said she plans to submit legislation aimed at, among other things, doubling the number of clean energy jobs to 30,000 by 2030, and further advancing cost-effective renewable energy development, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Mills also said she plans to work with lawmakers on a bond package that would promote economic recovery from the pandemic. The unspecified amount of bond money would fund community infrastructure projects that help blunt the effects of climate change such as flooding, speed the pace of home weatherization and invest in high-speed internet expansion across the state.

Mills’ commitment to addressing the impacts of climate change isn’t new. In 2019, she pledged that Maine would become carbon neutral by 2045 while addressing the United Nations General Assembly.


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