BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick planning board unanimously approved a sketch plan for a 15-acre solar array off of Old Portland Road on Tuesday.

While the project still requires several permits and final approval, this marks the first step forward for the renewable energy development.

The roughly 5-megawatt, 16,614-panel system would be located at the site of the former drive-in movie theater. The project is being privately funded through Turning Point Energy, LLC and engineered by Walsh Engineering Associates, Inc.

“It is sort of like step one of the two-step project, a sketch plan is basically a concept plan; it doesn’t mean they can go start,” said Matt Panfil, Brunswick’s director of planning and development. Panfil said that next, the project will go for “final major development approval.”

“The project will be part of Maine’s Net Energy Billing program, which enables residential and commercial customers to participate in the benefits of solar without physically putting solar panels on their rooftops or at their physical location,” Turning Point Managing Director of Development Michelle Carpenter wrote in an email.

Carpenter said the project would “offset approximately 750 households’ electricity use, according to the EPA Clean Energy equivalencies calculator.”

Two planning board members raised questions about the development’s potential impacts on wildlife, wetlands and vegetation.

“We did reach out to IF&W and Maine Natural Areas … and there are no significant plant or animal habitats associated with this property,” said Silas Canavan, project engineer at Walsh Engineering, during the planning board meeting.

Town Planner Jared Woolston reiterated in an interview that Walsh Engineering included an additional report in their sketch plan from Jones Associates, an environmental consultant agency.

“(The report) essentially says that they evaluated the land for vernal pool habitats and concluded that there were none,” Woolston said.

“Multiple small pockets of wetlands are proposed to be filled as part of the project,” Canavan said in the sketch plan submission letter. “We are just under 9,000 square feet of wetland impact, as proposed, and of course we will be permitting that wetland impact through the DEP as required,” Canavan said in the planning board meeting.

Canavan said the plan likely will require the removal of trees near the property boundary in an effort to minimize shade and maximize sunlight on the solar array.

“I don’t have the numbers yet because we are in the process of surveying those trees right now,” Canavan said during the meeting. “We will provide that information as to which trees will be cut with a final plan.”

The project would also include added electrical equipment, overhead poles, and would be surrounded by a chain-link security fence. In an attempt to visually buffer the array from Route 1 and four of the eight abutting properties, there will also be a staggered line of trees planted in front of a section of the fence.

If approved and completed, the solar array would become the latest solar project in Brunswick, alongside Crystal Spring Community Solar Farm and the Brunswick Landing Solar Farm. Turning Point and Walsh Engineering’s solar endeavor comes shortly after the news that Bowdoin College received approval to complete a 20-acre and roughly 18,000-panel solar development in their Brunswick Landing parcel.

Turning Point is a solar development company based in Denver, Colorado. As described by Carpenter in the planning board meeting, the company works in community, commercial and industrial areas to identify parcels of land and convert them into solar energy systems. The proposed array in Brunswick is one of about a dozen projects in Maine being funded by Turning Point.

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