The Scarborough Town Council approved a zoning ordinance amendment that provides performance standards for utility-scale solar energy systems. Dina Mendros

SCARBOROUGH — An amendment to the town of Scarborough’s Zoning Ordinance dealing with large, utility-scale solar arrays was adopted by the Town Council on Nov. 3. Although it had initially passed on Oct. 20, additional information that was to be included in the amendment was not. The amendment, including the missing information, was reconsidered and given final passage by the council last week.

The amendment dictates performance standards for utility-scale solar farms that can supply energy to the power grid.

Town staff and the town’s Ordinance Committee — which approved the utility-scale solar amendment on Aug. 19 — have already found possible locations for large-scale, utility solar developments and several such solar arrays are already in the works.

The ordinance specifies that arrays can only be constructed on parcels of 25 acres or larger within the town’s industrial; light industrial; rural farming; and rural, farming, and manufactured housing zones. The height will conform to the zone in which a solar development is located, with a maximum of 20 feet. The minimum setback is 50 feet or in accordance with the zoning district’s setback requirements, whichever is greater.

On Oct. 20, councilors unanimously voted in favor of an amendment to the town’s Zoning Ordinance to allow large-scale solar arrays to be built in Scarborough.

The Sustainability Committee began working on the ordinance in 2019.

According to an Aug. 27 memo to the Town Council from Planning Director Jay Chance and Sustainability Coordinator Jami Fitch, the Sustainability Committee worked to update the town’s zoning ordinance regarding performance standards for solar array farms due to changes in state law.  Also, they said, the ordinance change conforms with priorities in the town’s Comprehensive Plan and with the goals of the town’s Energy and Sustainability Plan.

Prior to the amendment recently passed, the town only allowed solar energy systems to provide energy on site. The new amendment allows for solar array farms that can supply energy to the power grid.

In February, the Planning Board provided a favorable opinion to a proposed array on ecomaine’s closed and capped landfill. This project is considered a municipal use because Scarborough is an owner-member community of ecomaine.

The Town Council’s reconsideration and approval on Nov. 3, provides minor changes to the setback requirements for utility-scale solar developments constructed on closed and capped landfills, which will assist that project.

The added information states that “utility-scale solar energy systems constructed on property with a closed and capped landfill and subject to a Maine Department of Environmental Protection Solid Waste permit which would restrict the installation of a fence at least 50 feet from the property boundary, the setback should be at least 65 feet from the property boundary and is to be measured from the edge of the solar array to the property boundary.

Other proposed solar arrays are expected to go before the Planning Board in the coming weeks.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: