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Fort Fairfield Solar Project Receives NB Power Approval


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, September 22, 2021


  The new solar energy project at the former ReEnergy site is on track to begin construction next year.   The five megawatt project was started about a year and a half ago and is qualified to participate in the State's newly-enacted net energy solar program.  The project will feature a large array of photovoltaic panels that track the sun using a single axis mount, functionally similar to mounting the panel on a cylinder and tracking the sun on one axis, as opposed to the more technical dual axis mounts being used elsewhere.

   Glenn Walker, Manager of Fort Fairfield Solar, LLC (FFS) explains the program is designed to allow either residential or commercial customers to subscribe to solar and receive a bill credit, or discount off their electric bills.  “It's not quite that simple, but that's the concept,” said Walker,  “it's the ability to give businesses and homeowners [credit] on renewable energy.”

    FFS recently received final permit approval after New Brunswick Power completed a cluster study of the proposed electrical generating resources.  Currently, there is no electrical transmission line connecting Northern Maine to the rest of the U.S. grid so all electricity for the area must come through New Brunswick, Canada.  NB Power has to examine all new generating sources to confirm their infrastructure can handle it properly.

   “What these cluster studies do is basically look at all these new generating resources and make sure they can work within the grid.  It's kind of like a water system in your house you've got certain size pipes and you can't be putting a big pump on a small pipe.”

The FFS project cleared the cluster study along with most of the other projects in Aroostook County two weeks ago.    “According to that cluster study we received an invoice from Versant for a deposit for our first connection to start upgrading the lines between the site and substation.  We made that payment Monday, by wire, so we're starting to move forward with the project.  The next big hurdle is going to be winter.  Given the fact that we're up against a winter season, the reality is we're probably not going to see major construction there until post-winter at this point.  I'm not too worried about that because my long-lead item is Versant anyway.”

   Versant Power estimates a 12 to 18 month lead time from the date the deposit is made to when the wiring infrastructure will be ready to tie in to the solar panel array.

   Walker is currently seeking commercial/industrial subscribers to the project.  “We had been courting a couple of large energy users up here in the County.  After the cluster study, everyone sort of got through and they decided to go with some other users or another project, not us, but we're just going to regroup and figure out what we're going to do as far as getting subscribers to the project.  It does have to be a commercial or industrial account, it can't do community solar with it because of the rules. It's either you can do commercial/industrial or residential, but you can't do both.  So, it's not that we don't want to do [both] it's that the rules don't allow for it.”

   Walker gave a brief presentation on the current status of the project to the Fort Fairfield Town Council at their September council meeting.