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Longroad Energy Building Maine's Largest Solar Project in Kennebec County

Mon November 21, 2022 - Northeast Edition #1
EcoWatch & Bangor Daily News

The Three Corners Solar project in Benton, Clinton and Unity Township in Kennebec County, Maine, began construction in November 2022. (Photo courtesy of Longroad Energy)
The Three Corners Solar project in Benton, Clinton and Unity Township in Kennebec County, Maine, began construction in November 2022. (Photo courtesy of Longroad Energy)

Maine is about to get its largest solar farm, a project designed to help the state in meeting its climate goals of getting 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, reported EcoWatch.

The project also is projected to avoid carbon dioxide emissions that are the equivalent of removing approximately 30,000 cars from the road each year.

Longroad Energy, a renewable energy developer based in Boston, Mass., announced that construction began earlier in November on the 152-megawatt Three Corners Solar project in Kennebec County. The company predicts the $200 million solar farm will produce enough electricity for about 30,000 homes annually and cut about 140,000 metric tons of carbon emissions over a 12-month period.

The agreement for EDF Energy Services to buy the power from Longroad and supply it to its New England customers is the largest corporate energy deal in the history of the region's power grid.

"We are glad to reach this important milestone and grateful for the support of the [Kennebec County] towns of Benton and Clinton, and the residents of the area," said Longroad Energy's Chief Development Officer Matt Kearns, who lives in Scarborough, Maine, adding that $200 million projects "do not come along every day in Maine."

The Bangor Daily News noted that the Three Corners Solar project is just one of several green energy projects in the state.

"This project will be an important resource for Maine to help meet its clean energy objectives and will deliver significant economic benefits to Kennebec County and the region," Kearns explained.

With most of the construction set to occur next year, he told the Bangor news source the solar farm is planned to go online by early 2024. The project will stretch across the towns of Clinton and Benton, and the unincorporated Unity Township.

"Large projects can get done in Maine, and we need to be able to do this work if we're going to meet our climate goals," Kearns continued. "It's a massive investment in clean energy."

Solar Farm Nestled Within a Forest

Partially chosen for its proximity to the electrical grid, the land for the massive solar project has been in the Bessey family — now owned by the family's wood brokerage firm Bessey Development Co. — for more than five generations. Formerly used for commercial timber harvesting, some of the land also had been cultivated for corn by a tenant farmer.

The visibility of solar farms in the state has a history of being an annoyance to Maine residents, which has led Longroad, in part, to choose a site for the Three Corners Solar project in a forested area, hidden from public view.

Longroad plans to cut down 690 acres of trees to make way for the solar panels, and Kearns said the company also will be improving roads and other pathways to access the complex.

He added that Longroad was cautious about avoiding wetlands and worked to reduce its environmental impact on the site, but that some effects were inevitable due to the size of the project. Prior to the start of construction, two years of assessments were conducted by Maine-based environmental consulting companies, as well as with local university graduates, he told the Daily News.

"We had to make sure we were avoiding vernal pools and other features to make sure that the project minimizes any impact to wildlife," Kearns explained.

To comply with Maine's conservation policies for the reduction of environmental effects, Longroad Energy has conserved 1,875 acres, which includes 1,020 acres in the Unity Wetlands Focus Area.

The company said "high value wetlands, deer wintering areas, inland waterfowl wading bird habitat, and critical terrestrial habitat" will be protected through the conservation agreements, the Bangor news outlet reported.

Just two years ago, Longroad built a 72.6-megawatt wind energy project in Hancock County, Maine, and has plans for a 1,000-megawatt wind project, as well as a roughly 100-megawatt solar project, in Aroostook County.

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