WILTON — The Planning Board granted conditional approval Thursday night for a solar farm on 17 acres on Weld Street.

Dirigo Solar must submit a full site plan review with its application before it moves forward with leasing land from the Western Maine Development Group for ground-based solar panels.

Gil Reed, representing Western Maine Development, said a solar farm would help Western Maine Development’s efforts to attract tenants with lower power rates.

Commercial tenants at the former G.H. Bass shoe factory are dwindling and Maine Made Furniture will be leaving, he said.

He indicated the project may eventually expand to include panels on the 6½-acre roof of Western Maine’s building. The property has a total of 31 acres.

Planning Board member Janice Sabin volunteered to research how solar farms have been implemented in other communities.

Central Maine Power representatives were also before the board with a plan to build a substation on its property at 1228 Main St.

The project has been approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The substation would replace one on Temple Road.

Environmental scientist/forester James Morin of Burns and McDonnell, construction engineers, said the Temple Road site cannot be upgraded to work with newer infrastructure and power demands. The equipment is increasingly unreliable, he said.

“The transformer dates back to the 1950s and sits on an aged wooden base,” he said.

The site would be decommissioned upon completion of a new substation and left as open space, Morin said. The Main Street location would include a mobile transformer and a stationary one.

The next step is a site walk of the Main Street property at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15.

Planning Board member Michael LeClair indicated final approval could be granted at that time.

Morin confirmed the project is wholly independent from CMP’s proposed New England Clean Energy Connect proposal to build a transmission line from the Quebec border to Lewiston to feed hydropower to Massachusetts.


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