AUGUSTA — The Augusta Planning Board has given final approval for an 87-acre solar farm off Church Hill Road that is expected to generate 20 megawatts of electricity.

The project, BD Solar Church Hill, is slated to be built next to BD Solar Augusta, an existing, 34-acre solar array.

Board members unanimously approved the new solar project, which drew mild concern from the lone neighbor, who spoke about the proposal at Tuesday’s public hearing.

The new array is expected to include about 50,520 panels that transform sunlight into usable energy to be fed into the regional electrical grid, according to application materials submitted to the city.

The array is to be surrounded by a 7-foot, agricultural-style fence, which City Planner Betsy Poulin said would comply with the city’s new standards for screening and aesthetics.

Augusta sought to revise those rules after some city councilors said they had received numerous calls from constituents upset with the appearance of the existing solar farm on Church Hill Road, which is visible from Route 3, a major gateway into the city.


Councilors enacted a 180-day moratorium, and city staff members and the Planning Board drafted new solar farm rules, requiring the farms be better shielded from public view. City councilors approved the rules last month and the moratorium was lifted.

When the first solar farm was built, it complied with the standards in place at the time. It will not have to comply with the standards now in place.

The application for the project was slated originally to g0 to the Planning Board in August but was delayed because the temporary ban was enacted before it had been taken up by the board. The project proposal was then revised to comply with the new rules.

To comply with the city’s new rules, a hedge of evergreen trees is proposed for between residential properties along Church Hill Road and the development, according to Poulin. The trees are expected to grow to more than 40 feet and help provide screening of the site to passersby. The proposed new trees would join existing trees and other vegetation that would also aid in hiding the solar panel farm.

Mike Tracy, whose Church Hill Road home is close to the property, said he was relieved no panels are planned “right beside my house,” and said his house is already screened from the site by existing evergreen trees. Tracy said he and his wife had concerns about whether solar panels could cause any health problems for those living near them.

Nick Mazuroski, co-founder of Dirigo Solar, a partner in the project, said he was not aware of health threats posed by being near photovoltaic panels, which have been in use for decades and are used in many products, including calculators and residential solar panels.


“It’s widely used and recognized,” Mazuroski said, “and I’ve not heard of any detrimental health impacts of it.”

“It looks pretty good to me. I guess I don’t have any real big concerns,” Tracy said, as long as no panels were placed right beside his house.

Access to the site would be from Church Hill Road, on the northern portion of the 172-acre site, just south of the existing solar farm. Wooded land to the east of Riggs Brook, which runs through the property, would not be disturbed as part of the proposal.

A snowmobile trail now on the property would be moved west of the solar farm, according to plans.

Jerry Dostie of the Fox Glen Snowmobile Club said the club supports the project if the trail can still get through the property. He said the developer worked with the group during the previous project to develop a new trail around the solar panels.

The proposed 87-acre project, dubbed by its developer BD Solar Church Hill, would be built, owned and operated by Dirigo Solar of Portland and BNRG Renewables of Ireland.

The existing solar project, dubbed BD Solar Augusta, was also developed by a partnership of those two firms but was sold to an investment bank to finance it. It is owned by The Carlisle Group, a private equity firm, according to Mazuroski.

The project is one of several BD Solar projects being constructed in Maine to fulfill a production agreement with Central Maine Power Co. and the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Together, according to application materials, the projects are projected to save Maine electric ratepayers between $3 million and $26 million over the life of the system, while also reducing carbon emissions.

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