A developer wants to build a 12-acre, 3.5-megawatt solar farm across Bristol Road from the Bristol-South Bristol Transfer Station, the third and likely last major solar installation proposed for Bristol in recent months.
Chris Byers, of the Portland-based environmental consulting firm Boyle Associates, represented the applicant, Bristol II LLC, and addressed the Bristol Planning Board on Thursday, March 4.
Byers said the solar installation will be virtually unseen from Bristol Road.
“It’s very low-profile,” Byers said.
He said the installation will require about an acre of tree-clearing, which will start once the applicant completes the permitting process. An 8-foot-tall game fence will surround the installation.
Byers said that about half of the site is already cleared, since it used to be used for a gravel pit.
Byers said that the applicant has applied for four permits through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection — change of use, stream, stormwater, and vernal pool permits.
He said there is a wetland within the project area, but it will not be disturbed. The solar array will be installed over the top of the wetland.
Bristol Code Enforcement Officer Joe Rose said the applicant is waiting on right-of-way permissions and clarification regarding where the old Bristol Road was located before submitting a permit application to the town.
Nathaniel “Nate” Curtis, who is involved with the project and is also an alternate member of the Bristol Planning Board, said by Zoom that the purchaser of the power generated by the solar array is the Hannaford Supermarket in Damariscotta.
Rose said that the planning board does not have to take action on the proposal, but the selectmen asked that the board review it.
“There’s no jurisdiction that the town has over this project other than for a building permit,” Rose said.
Rose said the structures only have to be 10 feet away from a property line and 50 feet away from the road. The town does not have an ordinance specific to solar installations.
Last September, the selectmen, at the recommendation of the planning board, decided to raise the fee for unheated commercial structures, which includes ground-mounted solar arrays, from 15 cents per square foot to 20 cents per square foot of footprint.
Byers said the Bristol II LLC project will be 200,420 square feet and, at 20 cents per square foot, the permit fees will total $40,084.
Curtis’ company, Midcoast Solar LLC, is planning to install a separate 12.7-acre community solar array north of the Bristol II project and on the other side of Route 130, across from a Central Maine Power Co. substation.
Another company, Overlook Solar Partners LLC, which is currently a subsidiary of EDF Renewables Distributed Solutions Inc., is planning to build an approximately 5-megawatt commercial solar farm on 32.9 acres off Christian Hill Road, just north of the village of Bristol Mills.
Rose said the EDF solar farm is going through the state site plan review process because it is over 20 acres.
Rose said that after these three solar farms are built, that will essentially be the limit for the number of solar arrays that can hook into the Bristol substation.
“That will be about capacity,” Rose said.