An inspector walks among solar panels off Peach Tree Lane in Winslow in November 2021. Moscow this week became the latest town in the region to take action against large commercial solar projects, with residents there voting to ban them outright. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

MOSCOW — Residents at a special town meeting Thursday voted to prohibit commercial solar farms, opting to go a step further than many other towns in central Maine when it comes to restricting the development of large solar projects.

Moscow joins a growing list of Maine municipalities that have passed measures limiting or temporarily prohibiting solar farms. But it is unclear if any other places have adopted permanent bans like Moscow’s. What’s also unclear is if the ordinance is even legal.

The town of about 500 people previously enacted a moratorium on solar farms, and in September also passed a “very restrictive” ordinance, according to First Selectman Donald Beane.

But a group of residents pressed the town to go even further. “There are quite a few people who don’t want any at all,” Beane said.

Beane, who voted against the ban, said he doubted its legality.

“We had legal opinions from our lawyer and (the) Maine Municipal (Association) saying it wouldn’t hold up,” Beane said.


Kate Dufour, advocacy and communications director for the Maine Municipal Association, said in an email she could not comment on the legality of the ban without fully reviewing the matter.

The ban passed 16-4 with no discussion in the meeting held at Moscow Elementary School. Residents mentioned several concerns about the impact of large-scale solar developments.

“They take up too much space,” Dee Laweryson said.

Joan Petersen called the farms an “eyesore” and was concerned about how they could affect wildlife, such as deer.

“What’s going to leak into the ground?” she added, referring to potential contamination from expired solar panels.

Several municipalities across the state in recent years have passed moratoriums or other restrictions on commercial solar developments. In central Maine, voters and officials in Augusta, Belgrade, Norridgewock, Rome, Smithfield and West Gardiner, among others, have passed measures putting a temporary hold on new developments.


In other cases, such as in Pittsfield and Unity, proposed moratoriums were rejected.

Dufour, of the Maine Municipal Association, said the organization does not keep track of such measures, as did a spokesperson for the Governor’s Energy Office, Afton Vigue. A request seeking similar information from the Maine Renewable Energy Association was not returned.

Solar energy accounts for about 8 to 9 percent of the state’s electricity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The national industry group projects the state’s solar capacity will grow about 45 percent in the next five years.

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