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Solar contractor proposes array at Harpswell’s Mitchell Field

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“They want this proposal to be out there for the community to think about and for the town to consider,” Town Administrator Kristi Eiane told the Select Board on May 23.

The company would pay the town $7,500 for a five-year option to lease the site, according to its proposal. If it moves forward with the lease, it would pay $8,000 for the first year, with a 2% increase each year. The town would receive a total of $407,456 if the farm operates for 35 years, or $263,742 for 25 years.

The 1.25-megawatt farm would offset the energy use of 219 homes or 1,531,250 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, according to the proposal.

At the May 23 meeting, the Select Board agreed to ask two town committees, the Mitchell Field Committee and the Energy and Technology Committee, to review the proposal.

If the Select Board advances ReVision Energy’s proposal, Harpswell voters will have the final say. “It would have to go to a Town Meeting before the town could agree to anything,” Eiane said.

In 2016, ReVision Energy proposed a 95.4-kilowatt solar array at Mitchell Field, according to a letter from a company executive to the town’s then-code enforcement officer. At the time, ReVision was proposing a power purchase agreement, in which Harpswell would buy the power from the array for six years. After six years, the town would have had the option to either buy the array or continue to purchase the power.

The town never acted on the proposal, according to Eiane.

The 2019 update to the Mitchell Field Master Plan mentions the possibility of a solar array on the property. According to the plan, the Select Board charged the Energy and Technology Committee “with finding a suitable site on town-owned land for installation of a solar array to provide for the electrical needs of all Town buildings.”

At the time, both the Energy and Technology Committee and the Mitchell Field Committee backed a site at Mitchell Field. But in 2021, the town instead opted to buy credits from a community solar farm in another community.

“This path was chosen over the earlier plan to build a Town-owned solar array because of its simplicity and flexibility: there is no need to build and maintain our own solar array, and the number of credits can be adjusted to reflect actual usage,” the Energy and Technology Committee said in the town’s annual report.

Mitchell Field encompasses 120 acres with a half-mile of waterfront. The federal government transferred the former U.S. Navy fuel depot to the town in 2001.

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