AUGUSTA — The Planning Board has approved a proposal to build a 7.5-megawatt solar farm on 18.42 acres at the Augusta State Airport.

The approval came after the developers and state officials offered a revised plan that would no longer require overhead power lines to be installed on the city’s Tall Pines Way, through part of the Bond Brook Recreation Area.

The original plan for the site was also modified to reduce the impact on trails — used by hikers and mountain bikers — on state- and city-owned land in the surrounding area.

A jet takes off Oct. 5 from the Augusta State Airport runway that is the proposed site of a solar power array. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The project, which received permit approval in a 6-0 vote Tuesday, would consist of ground-mounted solar panels on an enclosed area spanning 18.42 acres, with solar arrays attached to a fixed-tilt racking system.

It would be located on undeveloped, forested land northeast of the airport’s main runway. The project would feed electricity into the power grid, offsetting the state’s electrical costs over the 21-year lease with a private developer that would build, operate and maintain the system for the state.

State officials expect the project to generate electricity that could save Maine $6 million over 20 years.


The project, which would be completed by a private developer for the state, has been revised to no longer require overhead power lines to be put in on Tall Pines Way, through Bond Brook Recreation Area. Instead, the developer has reached a tentative agreement with a neighboring property owner to bring power to the site across its land.

The potential for the project to require power lines through Bond Brook prompted worries by some city councilors the project could mar the scenic wooded views of the recreation area.

A change in the solar farm’s layout and a last-minute agreement with the abutting property owner, Dotton Properties, to negotiate an easement to allow power lines to come from Bond Brook Road into the site across the Dotton property are expected to greatly reduce the impact on users of the Bond Brook Recreation Area’s trails.

Power lines on state property from the solar array to the Dotton property will be buried underground, Steve Barrett, of Barrett Energy Resources, said of the revised project. And overhead lines on the Dotton property won’t be visible from Bond Brook’s trails.

“Most significantly for any trail users, they won’t see utility lines,” Barrett said.

The plan was also altered to preserve a loop trail that was initially going to be eliminated. The trail is to be moved and come with views of the solar farm but will remain, which pleased Christopher Riley, president of Augusta Trails and the central Maine chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association.


Riley said the loop trail is key to the recreation area. He added that when he saw the initial plans for the solar farm and its impact on the trails — on which he has worked for 10 or 12 years to help design, build and promote — his concerns put him into a cold sweat. He said those concerns eased somewhat after he walked the site with Barrett and they discussed ways the project could be modified to preserve the trail, with some changes to its route.

“It provides a loop so walkers, runners, bird-watchers (and) mountain bikers can go in a loop, rather than having a dead end, and they can go around Tall Pines Way and down the hill, across the hill and then back up the opposite side and have a relatively natural experience,” Riley said of the now-preserved trail.

“There is no denying that the nature of the trail is going to change with the installation, but the experience of the way the network was designed will still be intact. I believe the compromise is one we can live with.”

A driveway into the site, which Barrett said would likely be used quarterly to check on the site, is to cross one of the trails, but speed bumps are to be installed on the road to slow any vehicle that approaches the trail crossing.

Barrett said developers will work with trail advocates to finalize the design of the crossing and location of the trail’s section that is to be moved. In some places, the trail will be within 5 feet of the fence surrounding the site.

The solar panels are to be out of sight from most areas of Augusta, according to Matt Nazar, development director for the city.

The Augusta State Airport is owned by the state but run by the city of Augusta, through an ongoing contract.

The developer of the project, MEVS ASA LLC, based in Carlsbad, California, and state officials are working with Barrett Energy Resources Group of Concord, Massachusetts, on the approval process.

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