Massive solar project proposed in Maine

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Next Phase Energy Services, an energy developer based in Casco, Maine, has submitted to the Hancock County Land Use Planning Commission a zoning change request to develop a 100 MW solar farm on 700 acres of undeveloped blueberry fields.

The project, if approved, would be the largest on the east coast north of Virginia, and would have more than 10 times the capacity of the state’s next-largest solar farm, located in Pittsfield.

In an article for the Bangor Daily News (BDN), Dave Fowler, president and owner of Next Phase referred to the potential farm as a “2020 project.” Fowler is a former senior land developer for First Wind, the company that developed the 51 MW Hancock wind farm, located about a mile from the proposed location.

After approval, the project would require $120 million in capital investment. Next Phase has already partnered with Elliott Jordan & Son Inc., the forestry company that owns the land for the proposed project, but would require additional partners for funding.

As BDN reported, this is not the only large-scale solar project planned in Maine. There is a 50 MW project planned to begin construction at the Samford Seacoast Regional Airport, an 80 MW project planned in Farmington and another 100 MW project planned in Limestone, at the site of a former military air base. BDN also cited a centralmaine.com report, that outlines a proposed 150 MW solar farm on the site of an abandoned military radar station in Moscow and Caratunk.

The Samford and Moscow/Caratunk projects are proposed by NextEra Energy, while the Limestone plant is being developed by Ranger Solar of Brooklyn, New York. NextEra has been involved in wind energy development, and there has been far more wind developed in the state so far than solar.

This was before Maine Governor Paul LePage’s January executive order that has halted wind energy development in the state, which appears to have pushed these developers in the direction of solar instead of wind.

It would be foolish to assume that all of these projects will be approved and constructed as currently planned. Even so, 480 MW of potential projects is a truly awesome volume for a state whose largest project is only 9.9 MW.