FRANKLIN – The planning authority unanimously approved two plans for solar power generation plants last Thursday and accepted a full application for a third operation.
The approved plans for sites on Hog Bay Road and Cards Crossing were presented by Dale Knapp of Boyle Associates on behalf of applicant Con Edison Clean Energy Business (Con Ed). Approval is still pending until two conditions required by the Board of Directors are in place. The meeting was held in person and through Zoom.
A third application for a solar farm submitted by Hog Bay Solar 1, LLC, the maintenance company of Borrego Solar Systems Inc., was unanimously rated as complete by the board of directors. A public hearing is provisionally scheduled for January 7th.
Knapp stated that the Con Ed facilities, jointly titled Franklin Solar Project, are designed as two separate projects on two separate tax lots, but are viewed by the state as a complete project.
The larger of the two locations is a 62.55 acre property on the north side of Hog Bay Road, which also includes a former gravel pit. It is operated by Franklin ME 2, LLC and Franklin ME 3, LLC, the Con Ed subsidiaries established for the project.
The $ 14,080,000 project will generate 6,496 megawatts of energy.
The second lot is a 15.55 acre lot on the west side of Cards Crossing.
The $ 5,420,000 project is operated by Franklin ME 1, LLC and generates 2.5 megawatts of energy.
According to Knapp, both locations of the municipal solar project will be connected to the existing three-phase supply lines along Hog Bay Road.
Franklin residents have the option to subscribe to the service and save on electricity costs, Knapp explained.
“The electricity generated by this project must be used by Maine residents by law. So it cannot be plugged into the grid and cannot be delivered to any other location by any economic instrument, ”he added.
Depending on the application, the project infrastructure to be built includes gravel access roads, concrete inverters and switchgear, solar systems and a step-up transformer on site.
Following the 2019 legislation, many community solar systems have been proposed in the Maine area to encourage the development of small-scale renewable energy projects.
These projects will allow customers to share the costs and benefits of small solar or other types of renewable energy … participating customers [will] You will receive a kilowatt hour (kWh) credit on your electricity bill, which reduces the payment amount owed for the electricity, ”says Maine.gov.
Brian Abbott, chairman of the planning committee, said the City of Franklin could also take out a subscription and that it was most likely a decision by the Board of Selectmen.
The Franklin Solar Project is one of seven Con Ed facilities across the state, Knapp said.
Knapp called the project a “very low impact way of generating the electricity we need without using fuel or emissions.” He explained that the project has “no direct impact on regulated natural resources.”
In addition, the project received all necessary permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The expected duration of the proposed project is at least 20 years. Thereafter, the lease can be extended in steps of five years if the landowner continues to lease the property for the project.
If the project is ever shut down, the site will be “returned to a natural state,” said Knapp.
Knapp said the proposed project will be monitored remotely and there will be limited vehicle traffic. A farm-style wooden post fence is installed to keep the site from looking too industrial.
In answering tax questions from the board, Knapp said lawmakers will likely look into how to tax projects of this type.
“These projects are willing to pay taxes … their project budget includes the expectation to pay a specific benefit in the form of taxes or just a specific benefit for the community,” said Knapp.
After Knapp’s explanation of the project, community members and Abutter had the opportunity to ask questions. Many questions were asked through the chat feature on Zoom.
One question submitted related to chemicals in solar panels that are made in China.
“These are not thin-layer plates, so they are essentially silica and glass,” replied Knapp. “They’re not made with chemicals,” he said, adding that the panels are the same technology that would be used for roofing residential buildings.
Knapp said that according to DEP requirements, the panels must be properly disposed of if the solar project is decommissioned.
A viewer asked if it was possible to get the panels from an American manufacturer.
“Right now the cheapest, most reliable, and safest panels come from overseas,” said Knapp, noting that one of the few manufacturers in the US uses chemicals in its panels.
“If the opportunity presented, we would certainly take it, but currently there are no American manufacturers in the market making the equipment we need,” he added.
When asked when the shutdown of the gravel pit and the commissioning of the solar project will begin, Knapp said the transition would hopefully begin next March or April.
The unanimous approval of the project is still subject to two conditions: the addition of reflective light on one side of the fence bordering the Downeast Sunrise Trail and the continuation of water sampling at the larger of the two locations for 12 months or two sampling Cycles.
Sampling, an eligibility requirement for the gravel pit when it was active, is being carried out to monitor two wells near the city’s water supply.
Rebecca is the reporter from the Schoodic area, covering the cities of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and boy who were greeted with joy in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and ideas for stories to [email protected]