FARMINGTON – Construction on a $110 million solar power project is expected to begin next year, after the Planning Board approved associated applications Monday evening.
By a vote of four to two, NextEra received approval for five permits relating to the project, including applications relating to erosion and stormwater control, the project’s site review plan and a solar-specific application. Current plans call for the project to begin construction off Route 2 in 2019.
As proposed, the project would be the biggest in the state, covering 490 acres, and would produce 77 megawatts of energy and connect to the Central Maine Power substation on Route 2. The project would be owned and operated by Farmington Solar LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra. Ranger Solar, a solar development company, originally proposed the project which was then taken over by NextEra.
The project would be mostly north of Route 2, although a section south of Route 2 would include some panels as well as a temporary site to stage construction equipment. To the north of the road would be a collection of panels and associated equipment in pasture lands; another section in the wooded area further off Route 2; and a final section off the Horn Hill Road on the other side of Beales Brook. A line would span Beales Brook to tie in that fourth section, while the collection line from the bulk of the panels would go under Route 2.
The life expectancy of the project is roughly 40 years. A decommission bond would be taken out by the company to meet the town’s ordinance requirements, with that bond to provide for the removal of the 300,000 panels and returning of the land to the pre-construction level.
While the precise impact of the project on the Farmington tax base is still being determined, a $100 million investment into the town would represent roughly $2 million in annual tax payments. NextEra has predicted that the project would create 185 jobs over the 12 to 24 month construction period, followed by 8 to 10 long term jobs, ranging from mowing and plowing, to security and monitoring.
Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser said Tuesday that while NextEra had all of the local permitting they needed to begin construction, he anticipated that the company would be appearing before the board in the future to update them on the project’s progress.
“They are going to come back and provide updates to the board regarding the project,” Kaiser said.