A 1941 Stearman airplane, owned and operated by Major Heather Penney USAF National Guard, overlooks the Wiscasset Municipal Airport. The proposed 20-acre solar project would sit in what is now a forested area between the airport’s runway and Chewonki Creek. Photo courtesy of Rick Tetrev

A 20-acre solar array, capable of powering 650-800 homes for a year, could be coming to the Wiscasset Municipal Airport next month if Wiscasset residents approve the project next month.

The planning board approved the project on Monday. Residents will vote on the project in the annual town meeting referendum vote on Tuesday, June 8. Voting will take place at the Wiscasset Community Center from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Cenergy Power, a California-based commercial solar developer that specializes in building solar facilities in airports throughout the company, is the parent company for the project.

The solar array, made from roughly 12,480 solar panels, would sit between the airport’s runway and Chewonki Creek. Each panel is 7.5-feet by 3.5-feet each, according to Chad Chabazi, vice president of project development for Cenergy Power.

The panels are expected to generate 5 megawatts of solar power each year, which would be available for local Central Maine Power customers to purchase.

If voters approve the project, construction could begin in early fall, Chahbazi said. Cenergy Power would lease the land from the town and construct and operate the solar field, expected to cost about $10 million.


Airport Manager Rick Tetrev said the solar project is “a win-win for the airport and the taxpayers of Wiscasset” because Cenergy Power would lease the land for $53,000 per year, totaling $1,060,000.00 over 20 years.

“The income from the project will be a great help in making the airport a profit center rather than a cost center for the town and allow the airport to continue to be maintained in a superior condition,” said Tetrev.

Earlier this month, Chabazi told the planning board the panels will not cause glare issues for pilots because the panels “look like a body of water, like a lake, and the design of the panels has always been to absorb light instead of putting light out.”

Stephen Barrett, principal of Barrett Energy Resources Group, said the Federal Aviation Administration is most concerned about when pilots encounter glare during their final approach, which spans from two miles away to when they touch down on the runway.

“The FAA recognizes that pilots see glare from a lot of different sources … they’re very used to those factors so they pull their visor down, adjust their hat, put on sunglasses, whatever,” Barrett said. “Even in (their final approach), pilots are very accustomed to distractions and have been trained to adjust to those.”

Barrett said the Barrett Energy Resources Group and Cenergy Power evaluated the Wiscasset airport and “found there was zero glare on pilots on final approach from two miles out to touchdown at the runway.”


The solar array would be built on what is now forested land — meaning a number of trees would need to be removed, said Barrett. However, this would increase the airport’s safety and bring it up to current Federal Aviation Administration standards because the nearby trees are “obstructions to airspace.”

The Wiscasset airport has seen 1,102 combined takeoffs and landings so far this year as of Tuesday, tracking on par to 2020 and 2019, according to Tetrev. However, he said charter and fractional ownership flights are beginning to increase, “which is a good indication that people are beginning to travel again.”

Tetrev did not comment Tuesday whether he believes the solar array could be a hazard to pilots or how it could impact business at the airport.

Brunswick Landing took on a similar — although smaller — solar project adjacent to the Brunswick Executive Airport runway in 2017. Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Steve Levesque said the panels create renewable energy that’s used to power airport buildings and runway lights.

Levesque said the solar array is “a good use for the land because you can’t build other things around the airport” that may obstruct air traffic. Since their installation, Levesque said he hasn’t encountered any issues with the panels.

About 125 airports in the U.S. are home to solar projects, according to Barrett.

The addition of more renewable energy would be another positive step toward Gov. Janet Mills’ goal of Maine becoming carbon neutral by 2045, which she pledged while addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 2019.

Mills signed three bills two months later aimed at ushering in renewable energy, the Portland Press Herald reported. The new laws boosted solar incentives and reduce Maine greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Lawmakers also passed legislation to increase Maine’s renewable portfolio standard from 40% then to 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

In late 2020, the governor announced her plan to submit legislation aimed at, among other things, doubling the number of clean energy jobs to 30,000 by 2030, further pushing the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate renewable energy.

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