Over the next few years, solar energy farms will be popping up across Maine, which has no specific rules for where such projects should be sited.
SOLAR VERSUS WIND
It’s too early to say whether large-scale solar development in Maine will bring about the broader public pushback that accompanied the expansion of commercial, land-based wind power in the 2010s. But it’s a cautionary tale.
The Maine Wind Energy Act of 2008 set up an expedited review process that made it easier for developers to site projects in certain areas. It worked. Today, roughly 20 percent of Maine’s electricity is generated by wind, more than any other New England state.
But the view of massive towers on remote ridges, and the sound of whirling blades from projects too close to homes, dampened some of the initial political and public enthusiasm around wind power. In 2018, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage enacted a moratorium on new wind projects. That ban was overturned by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills when she took office a year later.
Wind and solar are inherently different, however, in some key aspects. It’s not unusual for modern wind farms to have tower heights and rotor diameters the length of football fields, with multiple turbines sticking up along ridges.
Solar, by contrast, is low-profile and not as visible from a distance. But compared with wind, it takes up a lot more land.
Mainers are starting to see some so-called utility-scale solar projects rise on the landscape, on 250 acres at the Sanford airport, for instance, and on 490 acres that’s part of a dairy farm in Farmington.
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