ELLSWORTH — A Casco-based energy project developer proposes the creation of a 500-acre solar farm in Township 16 in eastern Hancock County.
Dave Fowler, owner of Next Phase Energy Services, said the solar farm would be located between two wind farms, Bull Hill and Hancock Wind.
Township 16 abuts the eastern side of the town of Eastbrook and the western side of the Washington County town of Deblois.
The proposed solar farm site is on forestland owned by Elliott Jordan & Sons, Fowler said.
If Fowler obtains all the necessary permitting, which includes getting a development permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, he’ll try to sell the power to Emera Maine.
Emera has a 115-kilovolt line, which the solar panels would feed.
“Essentially all of the solar panels’ power will be collected into one substation and that substation will interconnect into Emera’s line,” said Fowler.
Township 16 is in Hancock County’s unorganized territories, which means any development projects are the purview of Maine’s Land Use Planning Commission.
Samantha Horn, the commission’s planning manager, said the board voted unanimously on Aug. 8 to change the zoning for the proposed project site to allow commercial use to allow the solar farm.
The land will not remain commercial should the solar farm cease operations.
“Once the solar facility is finished operating and is decommissioned, the zoning will go back to general management, or similar zoning and it will not remain as commercial,” said Horn.
The project is a few years away. Fowler said he hopes to have the DEP permit by spring. Connecting with Emera, however, could take a couple of years.
Construction costs for solar farms have dropped in recent years.
Fowler said solar is “one of the most competitive” energies today.
“The panels themselves have become more efficient and the price of the panel has dropped,” said Fowler. Some panels are made of silica.
What is a solar panel?
A panel contains solar cells, which are individual units or wafers, which convert sunlight directly into electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“Solar panels are installed in arrays, or rows of panels, that—along with other hardware make up an installation,” the administration stated.