GOULDSBORO — Borrego Solar Systems Inc.’s plan to build a 5,050-panel solar farm about half a mile inland from Route 1 will be the focus of a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The $4.4 million project, which is the first of its kind to be applied for in town, would be located on a 188-acre site being leased to the developer for 20 years.
To be built by mid-2022, the solar farm features battery banks in which the captured solar energy would be stored on site. Located off the Tower Road, which has two residences, the project would require extending the access road farther inland and that work must meet current town standards.
Speaking to the Planning Board Tuesday night via Zoom, Borrego Solar Systems’ civil engineer Brandon Smith said the array would produce enough energy to power about 862 homes for an entire year. He said the 5,050 solar photovoltaic panels would occupy 2.21 acres within a chain-link enclosure covering 13.8 acres.
Planning Board member Jay Higgins asked Smith if the battery banks’ liquid coolant contained any PCBs or toxic chemicals. Smith said the coolant, used to cool the batteries when they heat up, is self-contained and poses no threat. He compared it to automotive antifreeze and said it did not contain any toxic elements.
Founded in 1980, Borrego Solar is the parent company headquartered in San Diego, Calif. Borrego’s New England office, located in Lowell, Mass., is spearheading the Gouldsboro project. The company, which is well known throughout the Northeast, specializes in siting, engineering, building and seeing solar and energy storage projects through state and federal permitting processes. The developer then either sells the solar installations or is contracted to run and maintain them for other entities.
For its Gouldsboro project, Borrego Solar Systems has a 20-year lease from property owner Ken Briggs of Dexter. The company also secured two five-year lease extensions given solar installations’ life expectancy of 25 to 45 years.
In its site plan application, under state law, Borrego is required to include a bond that spells out the protocol and estimated cost for the solar farm’s owner to dismantle a solar installation when its lifespan ends. That cost is updated, in accordance with inflation, every five years.
If Borrego’s site plan is approved, Jones said the company would receive a building permit for a nonresidential permanent structure. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also will assess the project’s impact on wetlands and stormwater runoff and other issues as part of the state and federal agencies’ permitting process.
Borrego is very active in Maine and is developing solar projects in Orland, Manchester Randolph, Strong, Turner, Windham and Millinocket.