FARMINGTON — With a utility-scale solar farm slated to come to Farmington by 2018, town officials are reviewing proposed amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance that would establish regulations for installing solar energy systems within the town.

The proposed amendments were the focus of a public hearing held Tuesday night during the Board of Selectmen meeting. A special town meeting is scheduled for Nov. 22, when residents will get the final say on the amendments. While no residents spoke during the public hearing portion of the discussion, selectmen were in favor of the amendments and were glad to see that the town was taking the steps to establish solar energy guidelines.

The proposed amendments establishes definitions and guidelines for the use of “private residential,” “commercial” and “industrial” solar energy systems. Any project for commercial or industrial scale solar systems would have to go through an application process with the town Planning Board, and residential-scale systems would require approval from the town code enforcement officer. For commercial and industrial sites, there also would be a $500 permit fee.

Over the last year, the Yarmouth-based company Ranger Solar has been in the preliminary stages of bringing a 50-megawatt to 80-megawatt utility-scale solar project to land owned by local farmer Bussie York, on Farmington Falls Road, also known as U.S. Route 2.

Town Manager Richard Davis said Ranger Solar gave an initial presentation last week to the Planning Board, but the town does not expect to receive a formal application until early 2017.

Currently, Farmington’s zoning ordinance does not include regulations for solar development. But with Ranger Solar’s Farmington solar farm project on the horizon, the Office of the Code Enforcement Officer drafted the proposed amendment to “regulate the permitting of residential, commercial, and industrial solar energy systems,” the amendment reads.

Under the amendment, the solar farm Ranger Solar is seeking to develop, which would include upward of 90,000 to 100,000 panels, falls under the amendment’s industrial section.

In the amendment, industrial solar energy systems are defined as “an area of land or other area used by a property owner and/or corporate entity for a solar collection system principally used to capture solar energy, convert it to electrical energy or thermal power, and supply electrical or thermal power, primarily or solely for off-site grid-use. …”

In an interview with the Morning Sentinel in July, Ranger Solar project manager Aaron Svedlow said a project of that scale would require at least 250 acres. York’s Sandy River Farms is about 600 acres.

Ranger Solar has selected the land in Farmington because it is a good candidate for development because of its proximity to an existing electrical grid, meaning a long transmission line would not have to be installed to hook the farm up to the grid.

With a utility-scale solar farm, the electricity generated from the solar panels would be channeled to the electrical grid and sold commercially.

Ranger Solar also is moving forward in Sanford with the construction of what it says is the largest solar farm in the state — a 50-megawatt project on 226 acres. In May the Sanford City Council authorized a lease agreement that will allow Ranger Solar to use land at the municipal airport for the project.

Included in the Farmington amendments is a section outlining that a company applying to install a large scale solar project must provide security that they have the funds to decommission the site once the project reaches the end of its lifespan or the company decides to end the operation.

Funding of the decommissioning of the Ranger Solar site would be included in the project cost.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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