Morris Farm going solar

1800s barn to get panels; progress made on another solar project Wiscasset farm is hosting
Mon, 10/19/2015 - 8:45pm

    As Gardiner Road, Wiscasset travelers might have noticed Oct. 14 and 15, a contractor was replacing part of the roof on Morris Farm’s circa 1840 barn. But passersby won’t be seeing some of the new shingles for long. The farm has decided to go solar.

    The barn’s roof was last replaced in about 1995; its south face would being staying on longer, if not for Morris Farm’s decision to install solar panels, according to Les and Merry Fossel, board co-presidents at the nonprofit farm.

    ReVision Energy will put on the solar panels.The Liberty-based firm has been in the area a lot lately. It set up a community solar farm in Edgecomb this summer; gave Wiscasset selectmen a July 7 presentation on the Wiscasset Sun CATs’ idea to add solar panels to the municipal and public works buildings; and on Aug. 31, had its first meeting with the Wiscasset Planning Board on a proposed community solar farm at Morris Farm.

    The solar panels that will go on the barn’s roof are a separate project from the community solar farm, which would go up near the end of the property closer to Wiscasset Middle High School, Merry Fossel said.

    Both projects fit with the farm’s mission to promote sustainability, or using the Earth’s resources without using them up, she said.

    Northbound Gardiner Road travelers have a view of the part of the barn roof where the panels will go; the panels will serve as a demonstration of solar power for passersby, Merry Fossel said. “We’re lucky enough that the south side of our roof just so happens to be visible (from the road).”

    Les Fossel, a building restoration expert, said adding solar panels will not impact the barn’s historical value. Buildings are supposed to adapt to their owners’ uses, he said.

    Plans call for the roof to get 60 panels, measuring about 2.5 by 5 feet, in five rows of 12 panels each, before the end of the year, said Sam Lavallee, a ReVision program manager. Each panel has a silicon layer inside aluminum-framed, tempered glass, Lavallee said.

    The Fossels estimated the roof’s replacement at about $8,000, to be funded by donations. Going solar will cost the farm nothing up-front and should eventually yield savings on electricity costs, the Alna couple said.

    Under a 20-year, power purchase deal with ReVision, the farm will lease the roof space to the firm, which will sell the farm the electricity the panels generate, Lavallee said. As a nonprofit, the farm is ineligible for tax credits, so ReVision will get the credits and use them to give the farm a discount on a buyout offer that kicks in seven years into the agreement, he said.

    As for the solar farm that Morris Farm plans to host, the number of deposits received from property owners who want to be members is up to six of the nine needed, ReVision Energy solar adviser James Manzer said Oct. 15. The firm hopes to have the other three slots filled by Oct. 23; that should still allow the site to be prepped before the ground freezes, he said.

    A series of rods will be driven seven feet into the ground. Then a rack is added for the solar panels, Manzer said.

    The firm will probably install the panels in January or February 2016, he said. ReVision is currently working toward getting planning board approval of a site plan, Town Planner Jamel Torres said. No tentative date has been set for the firm’s next meeting with the planning board, Torres states in an Oct. 15 email response to the Wiscasset Newspaper.

    Along with the new solar farm in Edgecomb and the one planned in Wiscasset, ReVision has plans under way for others in Freeport, Wayne and China, that would power homes; one in Rockland to power businesses, and one in Bar Harbor for either homes or businesses, Manzer said.The Bar Harbor one’s slots can only be sold to Bar Harbor property owners because that farm would be on town-owned land, he said.

    Regarding the six slots that have deposits on them for the Wiscasset solar farm, Manzer declined to name the towns that the prospective members’ properties lie in. They can be anywhere in Central Maine Power territory; ReVision fills the slots for one project before starting to fill another farm’s slots, Manzer said. The China farm’s slots will start to be filled after Wiscasset’s have been, he said.

    After all of a solar farm’s slots have been filled, a closing takes place, much like a closing on a home sale, Manzer said. Then the members own and maintain the panels through their association, similar to a condominium association, he said.

    Morris Farm is not joining the solar farm on its land as a member; the panels on the barn will meet all of the farm’s electricity needs, Les Fossel said.