Wiscasset eyes solar lease

Sat, 10/09/2021 - 8:45am

Dusty Jones said a proposed lease of Wiscasset Municipal Airport land to MSD Wiscasset sounds like a good deal, but he and fellow selectmen had just gotten it that day and he wanted time to review it. So did they. The board tabled it Oct. 5 on Zoom and plans to take it up again Oct. 19, location to be determined.

According to an email from Chad Chahbazi of Cenergy and MSD Wiscasset to the town, the proposal calls for a 21 to 36-year lease with Wiscasset getting $28,000 a year once the system is running; and a $318,393 donation as a show of goodwill from Cenergy to benefit the town and airport.

Cenergy plans to start prepping the 20-acre site this fall and start building next spring, weather permitting, the email states. It also recaps how the town and firm got this far – from Cenergy contacting the town in summer 2019, to environmental analysis and a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit in 2020, and this year’s planning board approval and voters’ OK to negotiate the lease.

Answering board questions Oct. 5, Chahbazi said for the 20 acres of trees the project will remove, the seven-megawatt solar farm’s greenhouse gas offset will be equal to replacing 40 acres of trees a year.

Jones asked about the energy he has heard solar panels’ production takes. The panels are mainly raw materials, but other than that he could not speak to it, Chahbazi said.

Selectman Terry Heller wondered if Cenergy could have leased already cleared town-owned or non-town-owned land instead of taking down trees at the airport. “I understand the attractiveness of the town making money. I can understand why it was possibly very appealing to the earlier board. But cutting down ... trees is unattractive as a way to go about making money in this area, at least to me.”

Fellow board member Kim Andersson said she personally does not like the idea of cutting down trees, either, but, due to the town’s pacts with the Federal Aviation Administration, “we will eventually need to cut those trees down anyway. So this just seemed like a win-win for the town,” saving money, making money and producing clean energy, Andersson said.