With the passage of LD 1711 by the Maine Legislature in 2019, Maine has seen an increase in solar projects being brought to Maine town planning boards. Governor Janet Mills has encouraged the expansion of solar power in Maine since taking office in 2019. Mills also campaigned on this while she was running as a candidate for governor. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) does support the state of Maine pursuing renewable green energy uses, but they prefer that commercial projects not be located on agricultural lands whenever possible due to the limited soil that is available for agricultural use in the state.
Some of the projects that have recently come up at Bar Harbor planning board meetings include a project planned in Bar Harbor off Knox Road. The Bar Harbor planning board recently approved the project. This project will be for a solar array on 57.5 acres, with 10.5 acres being clear-cut for the array. The array is expected to provide 1.99 megawatts of power to the electrical grid. Not everyone was happy about the project, and some residents expressed concerns that this project was taking land that could be used to build needed housing. There is a need for more housing in many parts of Maine, but especially in the areas of Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor.
Another recent project, the "Three Corners Solar Project" was approved by Maine's Land Use Planning Commission and it's the largest solar energy project of its kind in all of New England. This project will be located in the towns of Benton, Clinton, and Unity Township. This project is expected to provide enough electricity to power around 30,000 homes. The project comes with a price tag of $200 million.
The town of Warren planning board approved the Warren Meadow Solar Station on August 11th, which will now head to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the US Army Corps of Engineers for approval. If approved, this solar project is expected to begin before the end of 2023. This solar project will be located on 675 acres and will have sixty-three shipping-sized containers with batteries, a power substation, and 200,000 solar panels on the site. This project is expected to generate enough electricity for about 18,450 homes and has a price tag of $125 to $150 million.
Another five community solar farms, the Nautilus Community Solar Farms, recently went online in the counties of Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Somerset, and York. The five solar farms are expected to generate 31 megawatts of power. According to SEIA, which stands for the Solar Energy Industries Association, one megawatt of solar power is enough to power around 164 homes. This means this newest online solar farm in Maine will power around 5,084 homes.
Back in April, Maine 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced the state was receiving $10.5 million in federal funding from the USDA Rural Energy for America Program, which will go towards expanding solar projects in the state. Funding for the grants came from the $1 trillion Jobs and Infrastructure Act, signed into law by President Biden in 2021.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 79% of Maine's electricity net generation came from renewable energy in 2020. Maine released a comprehensive plan from Governor Mills to combat climate change on December 1, 2020. The plan focuses on four goals, with the first goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The target goal is to have 45% fewer emissions by the year 2030. A large part of that goal is to use 80% renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, in Maine by 2030.