A Longroad Energy solar panel installation in Prescott, Arizona. The company hopes to use similar technology in its proposed 700-acre Three Corners Solar Project in Unity Township, Benton and Clinton. On Tuesday, the Augusta Planning Board approved a 42-acre commercial solar farm to be built off Civic Center Drive.   Submitted photo

AUGUSTA — A 42-acre commercial solar farm has been approved by the Planning Board for development off Civic Center Drive.

The 2.5-megawatt system, to be located at 842 Civic Center Drive, will produce electricity that will be used by a Maine company, which officials declined to identify at this week’s Planning Board meeting on Tuesday.

“The purpose of this project is to benefit Mainers,” said Chris Byers of Portland-based Boyle Associates, a consultant that represents the project’s owner.

The site is just south of the Summerhaven Road intersection, and would be accessed via an existing, 18-to-24-foot-wide driveway off Civic Center Drive. It is located across the street from logging and auto sales businesses, and the rear of the property abuts gravel pits accessed off Sanford Road.

It is in the city’s Rural Village and Rural River zoning districts.

Byers noted that other similar projects have been developed in Maine, but create electricity that is transported out of state.

“This is a totally different project that falls in with a new program passed last year by the governor’s office. This is a project dedicated towards Maine businesses,” Byers said. “We’re not at a point we can disclose which Maine business that is, but it’s fair to say it’s going to be 100% benefiting Mainers.”

Project developers said the 8,000 solar panels, which could be as high as 10 feet, will be screened from view and the system is expected to make less noise than currently generated by traffic passing the location. Some existing trees will remain to provide a visual buffer, and a 25-foot wide buffer of trees has been proposed along the eastern side of the facility where it abuts Civic Center Drive. Agricultural-style fencing — 8-foot-tall wooden poles with steel mesh — will be installed around the perimeter of the solar racking and equipment pads.

The maximum height of the solar panels will be approximately 10 feet, but the application notes the height may vary slightly depending on terrain slope. Byers said the panels usually can be built without major changes to the site.

“We’re not talking about leveling this thing like a pancake,” he said. “For the most part the solar panels can conform to the existing site.”

Project applicant Maine DG Holdings is a subsidiary of Longroad Development Co., a renewable energy development company based in Boston. The firm, according to its project application, is focused on creating, owning and operating wind and solar energy projects throughout North America. It was founded in 2016 by the former executive team of First Wind Energy. Longroad’s investment backing includes a publicly traded energy and infrastructure investment company.

The company also is planning a $190 million solar project on land in Unity Township, Benton and Clinton. The Three Corners Solar Project would cover 700 acres, featuring ground mounted single axis solar panels that track the sun during the day to produce energy.

Board members, following a public hearing and major development review process that included about 45 minutes of discussion Tuesday night, voted unanimously to approve the proposal. None of them expressed concerns about the project, one of several solar projects under development in the city and part of a burgeoning commercial solar market in Maine.

Only one resident spoke out during a hearing Tuesday, asking if what he described as a deer-wintering area would be protected when the solar farm is built.

“I’ve got a deer sanctuary there. I’ve hunted there for 37 years and I’ve got it built up pretty good,” said Donald Bean, who owns property to the south of the site. “Some of the areas they’re interrupting with this are deer-wintering areas.”

Byers said he didn’t doubt there were deer on the property, but said the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has not mapped that area as an area in need of protection from development.

He said hunting would not be allowed, at least in the area that will be fenced in immediately around the solar panels. Byers said that area is about 24 of the 42 acres the company plans to lease for the development.

The project will also need approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

There would seldom be someone on-site, officials said, with a technician visiting a dozen times a year for regular maintenance or if a monitoring system indicates a problem. No buildings will be constructed, and there will be no water or sewer hookups.

The site is mostly wooded, but also includes fields and wetland areas. Longroad official David Kane said the company had expected to build a somewhat larger project, but scaled it back because of wetlands on the site.

Kane said the company has an agreement in place with Central Maine Power Co. It anticipates getting its Department of Environmental Protection permits in early spring and beginning construction right after that, starting by clearing trees from the property.

Byers said equipment at the site will generate about 63 decibels measured about 30 feet away, noise he said butting landowners would not be able to hear, and which would not be as loud as traffic going by on the road.

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