Solar panels as seen in Rockland in June 2021. Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald

Freeport’s town council on Tuesday voted to adjust rules regulating solar energy projects, opening the door for a potential new development off Route 1.

The new rules permit arrays of up to 15 acres in a particular commercial zone on Route 1 south. Previously, the cap in the area was under 2 acres.

Developments will be required to sit 150 feet back from Route 1 and at least 1 mile from another solar farm. A general restriction on herbicides was also approved.

The changes were sparked after NBD Solar Maine submitted an application in April to build a roughly 10-acre array off Route 1. The engineering company working on the project is Hoyle, Tanner & Associate, and according to Project Manager Shawn Tobey, the development proposal will now likely be closer to 15 acres due to the rule change.

The array would be a roughly 5-megawatt connection to the grid, Tobey said, which translates to between 2,000 and 3,000 houses being powered at full output.

“It’s a commercial lot that’s not really ideal for commercial development,” Tobey said, noting the land’s steep terrain. “But it’s a perfect use for solar where it’ll be mostly hidden from view.”

The project still needs review and approval from the town, which Tobey estimated would take roughly three or four months.

According to the April application, the array would be a community solar project, giving both residential and commercial Central Maine Power users the opportunity to use renewable energy through Maine’s net metering program.

Attempts to contact NBD Solar Maine were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

According to Freeport Town Council Chairperson John Egan, the amended rules to increase size align with where the solar market is in terms of economic viability for projects.

“Solar farms are the future of decarbonizing our utility supply. Plus, they are a bright example to illustrate how solar energy works,” said Egan in an email. “They’re visible, silent and get people (locals and visitors) talking about renewable energy. Freeport is a town that is committed to that value of supporting renewable energy sources.”

If the array proposed by NBD Solar Maine is approved and built, it would be the first large-scale commercial solar farm in Freeport.

Other businesses and organizations that use roof-mounted solar in Freeport include Wilbur’s of Maine and Freeport Community Library, as well as Maine Beer Company which also has ground-mounted panels.

Maine Idyll Motor Court off Route 1 hosts a roughly quarter-acre community solar array with nine members. According to Motor Court owner David Marstaller, the energy produced by the panels goes into the grid and members are credited by Central Maine Power. The array was built around 2015.

 

This story was updated at 10:15 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 7 to correct the name spelling of the engineering company involved in the project.


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