TRENTON — Planning Board members on Jan. 20 unanimously approved an application for a solar generation facility, the town’s first large-scale solar project.
“We’re open for business,” board Chairman John Whetstone told The American regarding members’ readiness to approve solar projects.
“We’re very much in favor of [solar],” he said, adding that the board would like commercial businesses in the area to pursue getting energy credits to save on their electricity bills.
The Trenton Solar Project was presented by Stephen Salsbury, president of Herrick & Salsbury Inc., a land surveying and land use consulting company in Ellsworth. He presented on behalf of clients Renewable Energy Development Partners, LLC (REDP), a Massachusetts-based firm.
Salsbury on Jan. 22 said the project will be located 2,400 feet from the Bar Harbor Road, across from Kisma Preserve, on a currently undeveloped 98-acre wooded parcel.
Costing an estimated $8,646,000, the project will include 17,785 panels, a solar array size of 25 acres (the size of about 17 football fields) and will generate 7 megawatts of energy.
Its expected lifespan is about 30 years.
A unique feature of the proposed solar farm is its double-sided panels, which will generate an extra 15 percent of output from ground reflection, especially from sunlight that reflects off snow.
Additionally, the panels will rotate to follow the sun throughout the day.
Salsbury said he foresees the development of more solar projects in the town, due to the budding popularity of solar technology and the desirable location.
“I have seen little interest in developing a large-scale project on Mount Desert Island, probably due to unfavorable cost basis for developers to buy enough land to make a large-scale system viable,” he said.
The town is open to considering additional projects, due in part to its revived Land Use Ordinance, which was updated last September to include rules for incorporating solar technology, Whetstone said.
“I started working on [the ordinance a year ago] because we had an applicant who came for approval [for a solar project] and we didn’t have any ordinance at all to base it on,” Whetstone explained. “Because of that, we couldn’t approve it.”
Conditions of the Trenton Solar Project’s approval include the applicant guaranteeing $276,000 toward the cost of decommissioning the project.
“That was important to us,” Whetstone said.
Establishing a decommissioning plan for each solar project is part of the updated ordinance.
Other conditions include the pending approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and the acquisition of permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, as well as the department’s approval of the project’s decommissioning plan.
Whetstone explained the applicable permits have received preliminary approval and should be finalized this spring.
Salsbury said that Renewable Energy Development Partners “has developed multiple similar projects in Massachusetts including numerous large-scale ground-mounted solar arrays on landfills, water supply land and undeveloped upland areas.”
The Trenton project marks the firm’s participation in 24 large-scale solar projects.
Like many of the solar projects recently approved in Hancock County, this one is taking advantage of state incentives and legislation passed in 2019 to promote the development of solar energy initiatives in Maine.