By Ramona du Houx

Community solar has increased exponentially since Maine Insights first reported on its possibilities. After a struggle with the LePage administration the siting and construction of solar panel farms ins on the increase. Even during the dark days of the anti-solar governor, the solar industry persisted.

In Oxford, Maine a parcel of land adjacent to the railroad tracks which extends into Paris will be the site of a 30-acre, $8 million, solar farm scheduled to go online in 2021.

ISM Solar Development recently opened an office in Poland to oversee the project. The East Providence, Rhode Island, company is already working on 10 solar projects throughout the Maine.

“The land has been on the market for several years because of some complexities,” said Greg Lucini, the CEO of ISM Solar. “We like to look at places that don’t really have great other uses. We specialize on building on landfills and brownfields. We’ve also built on quite a lot of former gravel pits. When you do that, you are able to develop solar and create a source of clean renewable energy without having to disrupt farms or cut down a lot of trees. We try to minimize that wherever we can.”

Railroad tracks that run through the property as well as a Central Maine Power (CMP) transmission line, making the property undesirable for many uses. ISM Solar took on the challenge, utilizing 20 of the 30 acres.

The solar farm will utilize 10,500 panels and produce 4.2 megawatts of power.

One might imagine working with two towns, two planning boards and two code enforcement officers, things might get held up.  “The towns cooperated. I was really happy with how the towns worked together. It’s a credit to both of them,” said Lucini.

The solar panels will use the latest technology called bifacial. That translates into a panel that absorb sunlight from both sides. The backside can absorb the light reflecting off the ground, while the front gets its tan. Twice the surface area increases energy production.

A tracking device to follow the sun from east to west, moving the panels vertical to keep snow off them in the winter. “They can absorb even more light from the backside with a fresh blanket of snow that’s on the ground,” said Lucini.

Anyone with a CMP account can sign up with the community solar program. That will enable customers to receive a reduction on their electrical rates. Construction on the solar farm is promised to start in 2021 and take six months.

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