GOULDSBORO — Borrego Solar Systems Inc.’s plan to build a 5,050-panel solar farm on a 14-acre site off the Tower Road is the subject of a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The hearing will take place both online and in person at the Prospect Harbor Woman’s Club in Prospect Harbor. The transnational company has already secured a 20-year lease from the landowner for the site of the $4.4 million project. The installation would be the first of its kind in Gouldsboro.
Based in Oakland, Calif., Borrego Solar is in the business of siting, engineering, building and seeing solar and energy storage projects through state and federal permitting processes. Borrego either sells the solar installations or is contracted to run and maintain them for other entities. In Maine, Borrego has contracts to operate 28 different solar systems that have a combined photovoltaic capacity of 144 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The Maine projects range widely from MaineHealth’s hospital system to arrays in the towns of China and Lisbon.
Borrego’s Lowell, Mass.-based regional office is spearheading the 1.99-megawatt solar farm project in Gouldsboro. The array would occupy 2.21 acres framed by 7-foot-tall chain-link fencing. Battery banks would store the captured solar energy on site. The land is being leased by Kenneth Briggs of Norway, Maine. Borrego has the option to extend the lease initially for four more years and successive five-year periods thereafter.
At the Jan. 18 hearing, the Planning Board and Borrego engineers will hear comments and take questions about the project from the public in general as well as any of the 17 abutting property owners, who include a few Tower Road residents, many landowners and Frenchman Bay Conservancy. The board already has reviewed and found Borrego’s site plan to be complete. The applicant is seeking a nonresidential building permit to install the fixed system, which will average between 8.5 and 9 feet in height. The solar farm will be accessed via Tower Road from Route 1. The site’s new access road will be a 14-foot gravel way. New utility poles will be installed along Tower Road.
In a July 19 letter, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department’s wildlife biologist Becca Settele informed Borrego’s project manager and engineer David Albrecht that the state agency had not “mapped an Essential Habitats that would be directly affected by your project.” In her preliminary findings, Settele noted that several of eight endangered bat species likely inhabit the project area during the fall/spring migration and summer breeding seasons and possibly winter over in the area. She recommended consulting a U.S. Fish & Wildlife biologist about how to protect bats listed under the Federal Endangered species Act.
Borrego also consulted the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry about potential rare or unique botanical plants on the proposed Gouldsboro site.
“There are no rare or botanical features documented specifically documented to occur in the vicinity of the project site,” Molly Docherty, director of the agency’s Maine Natural Areas program, replied. “The lack of data may indicate minimal survey efforts rather than confirm the absence of rate botanical features.” Docherty suggested having the area surveyed by a qualified field biologist.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also are expected to assess the project’s impact on wetlands and stormwater runoff and other issues as part of the state and federal agencies’ permitting process.
Borrego plans to complete the solar farm’s installation by mid-2022. The company’s application also contains a detailed plan in anticipation of the eventual decommissioning of the Tower Road array at the end of its life expectancy of 25 to 45 years. The concrete pads would be broken up and hauled to the transfer station. The labor and transportation costs are estimated at $131,000 and would be adjusted for inflation every five years.
Six years ago, Portland developer Kimball Kenway proposed a $9.5 million solar installation at the U.S. Navy’s former Corea radar station, but that project never materialized.
To attend the Jan. 18 hearing, the public has the option to view and comment via Zoom during the session. The town will post a login link on its website at www.gouldsborotown.com.