ELLSWORTH — A 17-acre solar farm proposed for Nicolin Road has neighbors and members of the Green Lake Association concerned.
“I feel it’s going to be a great detriment to Green Lake,” Harmony Way resident Joe Kitchen told the Planning Board during an Aug. 5 meeting to review the project’s sketch plan.
Dirigo Solar proposes a 3.3-megawatt solar facility on a 95-acre parcel under the name BD Solar Ellsworth. The lot (Tax Map 93, Lot 2) has wetlands on three sides that all back into Boggy Brook, which then runs into Green Lake. The area is forested, and the solar installation would mean clear cutting the acreage required to construct and situate the solar array.
In presenting the project to the board, Sean Thies, senior project manager with Bangor engineering firm Haley Ward Inc., estimated the array would hold around 10,000 solar panels. A 30-foot buffer would shield the site from the road.
“Is there a way to see what 10,000 panels looks like, when it was trees two or three weeks ago?” abutter Mike Hammer asked. “They say there’s no landowners that see this. I look over that ridge and wonder what my environment will look like?”
Thies said he has been able to address identical concerns on similar solar projects through working with the property owner. But for others present, Green Lake, not aesthetics, was the overriding issue.
Compounding their concerns was learning that the project is eligible for a Department of Environmental Protection permit-by-rule, which avoids the scrutiny of an individual permit process, although Thies explained this applies only to its operation, not its construction, and mainly affects reporting requirements.
Green Lake Association President Audrey Tunney asked the city “to really look at this proposal.”
A hydrologic survey is required but not yet done, as a late reconfiguration of the site pushed its size large enough to require one under the city’s zoning ordinance. And city Watershed Steward John Wedin should be involved “in whatever capacity you feel you should be,” Board Vice Chairman John DeLeo said after hearing Wedin’s comments.
“Every piece, every square foot of Maine is in a watershed of one sort or another,” Wedin said. “It flows somewhere, and it flows into the nearest river, or it flows into the nearest lake, or it flows into the ocean, eventually.”
As a sketch plan review, no board action was taken. The next step is a preliminary application review.