Big solar energy farms to be constructed in Maine- despite Gov. LePage

BY Ramona du Houx

Sanford and Colby College to build huge solar installations

Plans to build Maine’s largest solar energy farm on vacant land at Sanford’s municipal airport won key support from the City Council on May 4, 2016 when they unanimously authorized City Manager Steven Buck to sign a lease allowing Ranger Solar to use the 226 acres to build a 50-megawatt photovoltaic array.

“It is going to be the largest project in the state of Maine and one of the largest in New England,” said Buck. 

The utility-scale commercial project would generate power to be sold through the region’s electricity grid. Construction will begin in 2018. The project will include 176,000 solar panels and could provide enough electricity to power more than 8,000 homes. There are about 9,000 residents in Sanford according to the US Census.

Meanwhile Colby College’s 5,505-panel solar array will start construction in 2018 and will be another one of largest solar arrays in the state. The 5,505 panels will be erected on 4.5 acres in the college’s community gardens and will produce enough energy for about 16 percent of Colby’s energy needs.

Bowdoin College in Brunswick currently leads the list of the largest completed facilities with it’s solar photovoltaic array.

Federal rebates continue to make a difference in the solar energy industry and have spurred economic growth despite Gov. LePage’s recent veto of a measure that would have helped grow 600 Maine jobs in the sector. In contrast during Gov. John Baldacci's administration solar rebates were accessible, as he introduced them.

(Gov. Baldacci switching on a solar panel to kick-start his solar energy rebate program. Photo by Ramona du Houx) 

Maine has more solar energy available than a country like Germany, yet Germany has a solar panel on every roof top generating energy. The country's alternative energy resources have enabled them to shut down all their nuclear power plants.