Phippsburg Elementary School was packed Wednesday evening as residents waited to vote on a solar moratorium. The moratorium, which will prevent commercial solar and wind development in Phippsburg until June, passed by an overwhelming majority. Luna Soley / The Times Record

Phippsburg residents overwhelmingly backed a moratorium on new commercial solar and wind developments Wednesday evening at a special meeting. Of the more than 70 people gathered in the elementary school gymnasium, only three voted against the measure.

Under the moratorium, which will go into effect immediately, no new commercial solar or wind energy projects can be built for the next 180 days. The moratorium has no bearing on solar or wind projects on residential properties or the development pitched by a hotel company that sparked the proposal in the first place.

Many residents spoke in favor of the moratorium during public comment.

“Although I believe that solar power is vitally important to our world, as climate change speeds up and oil and gas prices soar, we need to remember an important ecological principle,” Susan Beegel said. “There is no such thing as a free lunch. Wherever humans exploit nature for their use there is always an ecological cost.

“Solar power is not free,” Beegel said. “The cost is land, the space needed to put up solar panels to capture energy from the sun. And land is a nonrenewable resource.”

The debate was sparked by the Giri-Sebasco project, which proposes to build a 5.4-acre solar array in a forested area along West Point Road on the property of the Sebasco Harbor Resort. The resort was purchased in May 2022 by Giri Hotels, a Massachusetts-based management firm.


If the project is approved, 10-plus acres of trees will be clear cut to make space for the panels.

Although the moratorium was first proposed by the Select Board after public outcry over the Giri-Sebasco project, it will have no bearing on its progress — the moratorium applies only to new projects that have not yet applied for permitting.

Select Board Chairperson Susan Levene voted against approving the moratorium for two reasons, she said Wednesday.

“I think we need these solar power facilities and I think they need to be everywhere, including in Phippsburg,” she said. Second, “the language of the moratorium may not be clear enough to stop another big commercial venture application” she added, pointing out that much of the power generated by the proposed Giri-Sebasco project would go back into the Sebasco Harbor Resort property, complicating its designation as commercial.

The proposal for the Giri-Sebasco array will come before the Planning Board after a public hearing scheduled in 2024.

“Nobody on the [planning] board to my knowledge has any objection to this,” Planning Board Chairperson Marie Varian said of the project.

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