WINSLOW — The Winslow Town Council on Monday gave initial approval to an ordinance that would allow the construction of large-scale commercial solar farms in certain parts of town.

A first read of the ordinance, which regulates large-scale principal solar energy systems, was overwhelmingly approved by the council. The council still needs to take a second and final vote on the ordinance at its October meeting,

Town officials were encouraged to draft the regulations after being approached by Ranger Solar, a Yarmouth-based energy company interested in constructing a 10-20 megawatt power station on Heywood Road. If it moves forward, the 100-acre project could cost as much as $25 million and could be the largest solar project in the state.

The ordinance requires any project to conform to industry design and installation standards, be screened from view by nearby residential properties and be enclosed with a chain-link fence, among other requirements. Power transmission and utility lines have to be buried underground, and a maintenance and operation plan has to be submitted to the town. Projects will be charged a $1,500 application fee and permits will cost $500 per megawatt of power the project generates. A solar project would have to comply with the same noise and decommissioning rules that wind projects do.

The council also gave initial approval to amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance to allow commercial solar projects in the low density residential, rural and industrial districts in town. The considerable amount of land needed for a solar farm restricts where they can be installed, Town Manager Michael Heavener said.

The town’s industrial district is centred around the business park off Millennium Drive in the south part of town, which is surrounded by a low-density residential district that extends from Carter Memorial Drive south to the Vassalboro town line.

The rural zone is mostly on the east bank of the Sebasticook River, between Winslow’s residential core and the conservation district around Pattee Pond and to the town’s southeast corner.

Heywood Road, where Ranger Solar is eyeing its project, is located in the rural district, and connects Benton and Clinton avenues.

Any project will need to meet the set-back, light and other requirements that apply to other developments in the district.

A committee made up of members of the planning board and town council have been working on the ordinance changes since July.

Ken Fletcher, one of the councilors on the committee, said they tried to insert solar farms into existing standards in the town’s zoning districts, instead of creating “exceptional standards” for proposed solar farms.

Five of the councilors present voted an initial approval for the ordinance, but Councilor Ray Caron abstained from voting saying he had not had time to review the new regulations and didn’t feel comfortable voting on it.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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