Construction Begins on Maine’s Largest Solar Project
Maine is about to get its largest solar farm, which will help the state meet its climate goals of getting 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, reported Bangor Daily News. The project is also projected to avoid carbon dioxide emissions that are the equivalent of removing about 30,000 cars from the road each year.
Longroad Energy, a renewable energy developer based in Massachusetts, has announced it is beginning construction on the 152-megawatt Three Corners Solar project in Kennebec County. The $200 million solar farm is predicted to produce enough electricity for about 30,000 homes annually and to avoid about 140,000 metric tons of carbon emissions each year.
“We are glad to reach this important milestone and grateful for the support of the towns of Benton and Clinton, Kennebec County and the residents of the area,” said Longroad Energy’s Chief Development Officer Matt Kearns, who lives in Scarborough, Maine, as Solar Power World reported. “Two-hundred million dollar projects do not come along every day in Maine.”
The Three Corners Solar project is just one of numerous green energy projects in the state, reported Bangor Daily News.
“This project will be an important resource for Maine to help meet its clean energy objectives and will deliver significant economic benefits to Kennebec County and the region,” Kearns said, according to PV Tech.
With most of the construction set to occur next year, Kearns said the solar farm is projected to go online by early 2024, Bangor Daily News reported. The project will stretch across two towns — Clinton and Benton — and the unincorporated Unity Township.
“Large projects can get done in Maine, and we need to be able to do this work if we’re going to meet our climate goals,” said Kearns, as reported by Bangor Daily News. “It’s a massive investment in clean energy.”
Partially chosen for its proximity to the electrical grid, the land for the massive solar project has been in the Bessey family — now owned by the family’s wood brokerage firm Bessey Development Co. — for more than five generations. Formerly used for commercial timber harvesting, some of the land had also been cultivated for corn by a tenant farmer.
The agreement for EDF Energy Services to purchase the power and supply it to its New England corporate customers is the biggest corporate purchase power deal in the history of New England’s power grid.
Maine residents had previously been bothered by the visibility of solar farms, and the site of the Three Corners Solar project was chosen in part because the project will be in a forested area, hidden from public view.
Longroad Energy will be cutting down 690 acres of trees to make way for the solar panels, and Kearns said the company will also be improving roads and other points to access the area.
Kearns said the company was cautious about avoiding wetlands and reducing its environmental impact on the site, but that some environmental impacts were inevitable due to the size of the project. Two years of environmental assessments were conducted with environmental consulting companies located in Maine, as well as with local university graduates, Kearns added.
“We had to make sure we were avoiding vernal pools and other features to make sure that the project minimizes any impact to wildlife,” said Kearns, according to Bangor Daily News.
In order to comply with Maine’s conservation policies for the reduction of environmental effects, Longroad Energy has conserved 1,875 acres, which includes 1,020 acres in the Unity Wetlands Focus Area.
The company said “high value wetlands, deer wintering areas, inland waterfowl wading bird habitat and critical terrestrial habitat” will be protected through the conservation agreements, Bangor Daily News reported.
Longroad Energy built a 72.6-megawatt wind energy project in Hancock County, Maine, in 2020, and has plans for a 1,000-megawatt wind project, as well as a roughly 100-megawatt solar project, in Aroostook County, Maine.