ELLSWORTH — Green and clean could be a fitting future motto for Ellsworth, as the Planning Board will take up two solar farm applications on Nov. 4, after approving two Mariaville Road sites in September. One of the projects on the Nov. 4 agenda is the final review of a small, private array at Superior Docks on Christian Ridge Road. The second application, off the Bucksport Road near North Bend Road, is for a behemoth by comparison, with 17,328 panels on 42.3 acres, and a $9.8 million price tag for its applicant, Consolidated Edison Development Inc. The proposed farm, named the Ellsworth Solar Project, will have a top 4.875-megawatt capacity to generate power to the local power grid.
The site is in the rural and drinking water zone, abuts no parcels of water and is not within 250 feet of any water body’s high-water mark or within a special flood hazard area. Existing logging roads will be used for access, according to the application. A natural resource protection permit application has been filed with the Department of Environmental Protection and a decommissioning plan, including a performance bond, is included in the application.
The number of kilowatt hours the farm will generate is not part of the application –“A lot of those numbers are tied into power purchase agreements that are confidential,” said Dale F. Knapp, of environmental consultants Boyle Associates. The Portland-based company is agent for Consolidated Edison and five more solar farm projects Consolidated is developing from Gorham to Lincoln.
Consolidated Edison Development took over the Ellsworth project when it acquired Colorado-based solar company Clean Energy Collective (CEC). However, if approved, the solar facility would be owned and operated by Ellsworth ME 1, LLC. Ellsworth ME 1 was formed in February by the founder and owner of CEC, Paul Spencer, and is headquartered in the same office building. The new company’s registered agent, Samuel Cunningham, is legal counsel for CEC.
After filing articles of incorporation, Ellsworth ME 1 quickly assumed a 20-year lease option between CEC and Curtis W. Larrabee, of Searsport, from November 2019, for 35 of the 107 acres Larrabee owns on Bucksport Road, and then amended the option to 45 acres. Larrabee also has signed an easement agreement for access, utility and solar shading (otherwise known as tree removal) for his land surrounding the proposed development site. According to the site development application, there also will be an option for Ellsworth ME 1 to renew the lease for four consecutive five-year periods.
If the project is approved, the energy generated must be purchased and used in Maine, Knapp added, as the solar farm is designed as a community solar project intended to supply power to residential customers.
The Nov. 4 Planning Board meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m., with a final plan review for Superior Docks’ proposal and a preliminary plan review for the Ellsworth Solar Project. The meeting will be held virtually, with instructions for attending posted on the city of Ellsworth’s website.