ELLSWORTH — As local communities look to the sun to save on electricity bills and be more environment-friendly — Ellsworth is actively exploring solar for its electricity needs — one business owner decided to power his shop through solar, too.
Richard Newman, owner of Superior Docks at 420 Christian Ridge Road, will appear before the Planning Board on Oct. 21, seeking approval for a 4,000-square-foot solar field on his commercial property.
The idea sparked for Newman after he drove his new Tesla from Arizona to Maine last year.
“I was very impressed,” he said. “And that kind of led us into being carbon-neutral. If I can run a welding shop on sun power, I thought that was very interesting.”
The estimated cost for the solar project is about $110,000.
With Superior Docks’ annual electric bill currently about $15,000, “we’re basically trading a light bill for a bank note,” Newman said. “In eight years, we’ll start seeing some benefits from it.”
What it will give Newman is a measure of control over Superior Docks’ electric bill, he said, with the solar array set to generate between 5 and 8 kilowatts per day, “which will cover our needs on the low end.”
Compared to large solar fields recently approved on the Mariaville Road and on Thorson Road in Hancock, Newman’s proposal is small.
“It’s pretty straightforward,” said engineer Andrew McCullough, who will present Superior Docks’ application before the Planning Board. “Relatively speaking, it’s a small project.”
Superior Docks is located in the urban zone. As the site is adjacent to Gilpatrick Brook and lies within the Stream Protection Zone, McCullough said an application for a Natural Resources Protection Act permit “by rule” will be submitted despite the project having no anticipated impact on wetlands.
Newman noted that the solar array will not be visible to the 12 legal abutters: “It’s tucked away in a part of the property that doesn’t hold a lot of value.”
Superior Docks moved from Waltham to a 78-acre parcel on Christian Ridge Road in 2005, with help from a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant for infrastructure costs. The business fabricates aluminum docks that end up in all parts of the world, from Guam to Canada to Old Town, where Newman just delivered a 98-foot gangway, the longest dock his company has fabricated to date.
His next plan? Using Tesla pickup trucks for deliveries. “It saves money, [is] more efficient and better for the environment.”
Public access to the Oct. 21 Planning Board meeting will be virtual, with instructions for participating in the public hearing portion of the meeting posted that morning at ellsworthmaine.gov and the city of Ellsworth’s Facebook page. The meeting also will be streamed live via Facebook and the city of Ellsworth’s Facebook page.