From the Kennebec Journal

October 14, 2015

By Peter McGuire

WINSLOW — Town councilors unanimously have approved regulations on utility-scale solar-electric projects, paving the way for possible construction of a huge commercial solar array in town.

In short order and with little discussion, councilors on Tuesday adopted an ordinance to regulate large-scale principal solar energy systems and three amendments to existing ordinances to cover rules for noise and decommissioning solar arrays and in what development zones commercial projects would be allowed.

The ordinance, the first of its kind in Maine, is necessary for Ranger Solar to move ahead with the project, town officials said. It applies only to large commercial solar projects designed to feed into the electricity grid, not small solar electric systems for household power.

A committee of town officials and employees came up with the rules after the Yarmouth company approached the town with a proposal to build a 10-to-12-megawatt solar station somewhere on Heywood Road, which connects Benton and Clinton avenues. At the time, the company estimated the project would cost up to $25 million and cover up to 100 acres.

Reached by telephone Wednesday morning, Adam Svedlow, Ranger’s director of environmental planning, said the company still is working on the project but isn’t ready to release a timetable for the development.

“We are still looking to move forward with the project,” Svedlow said.

That it only took town officials a few months to develop and approve the ordinance after it was proposed in July was encouraging, he added.

“It seems they look favorably on utility-scale solar,” Svedlow said.

The regulations require solar projects to conform to industry design and construction standards, be screened from public view and be enclosed with a chain-link fence. Power and utility lines have to be buried underground, and a maintenance and operation plan has to be filed with the town.

There is a $1,500 application fee. Permits will cost $500 per megawatt of power generated. Solar installations have to comply with the same noise and decommissioning rules commercial wind facilities do. Solar projects will be allowed in the town’s rural, industrial and low-density residential zoning districts.