CARRABASSETT VALLEY â€” The Planning Board met in the Outdoor Center conference room to review information on a proposed solar panel installation on Sanitary District land. The operation would have 16,700 solar panels and cover approximately 45 acres, according to Ron Kelly and Sean Murphy from Advanced Solar Products. Originally, the Sanitary District approached Advanced Solar Products as they were looking for a sustainable operation for the land owned by the district.
The biggest concern from the planning board seemed to be the visibility of the installation; Carrabassett Valley maintains a high standard for visual and scenic elements. A view study was conducted and indicated that portions of the installation may be visible from the neighboring mountains, but due to the forested areas around the installation, it would only be visible from higher elevations. As the installation is located near the sanitation pools and a Central Maine Power substation and transmission line, the additional disruption to the view shed from the peaks would be significantly less than if a new area was being cleared. In addition, there would be a forested buffer between the project and Route 27. The only visibility from Route 27 would potentially occur if they had to connect into the power grid at the road, but they are working with CMP and hoping to connect in at a different location, eliminating that junction near the road.
The average life expectancy of a solar panel is about 25 years. Generally, rather than disassemble and remove the installation, the panels are recycled and new panels installed. However, part of the permitting process with the State involves a removal plan, including reasonable assurance that funds will be available to cover the cost of removal if necessary. The impact on the environment would not affect future land management such as tree growth and timber harvesting. The area will be maintained without the use of herbicides. It would be planted in native meadow plants to assist with erosion control, and trees and brush would be removed manually.
Advanced Solar Products would prefer to serve commercial and industrial customers, who would receive reduced energy costs. The primary benefit to the residents of Carrabassett Valley would likely come through the Sanitary District; as a not-for-profit organization, increased income means reduced rates to the residential and business customers. In addition, town facilities could take advantage of the reduced energy costs, which would then reduce the tax bill.
Kelly and Murphy spoke about the project for nearly an hour, outlining what it would look like and answering questions from the planning board and the members of the community, including selectmen and the town manager. Following the presentation, the planning board reviewed the findings of facts on the project and voted to grant the conditional use permit requested. The timeline for the project is partially dependent on other permitting necessary on a State level; they hope to have the installation complete by the end of the summer in 2021.