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    Town Council backs feasibility study for solar array
Wednesday, October 06, 2010 at 5:30 AM

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WINTHROP -- The prospect of an array of solar panels atop a former Superfund site captured the interest of town councilors, who voted Monday night to endorse a feasibility study for the project.

The proposal was presented by Dick Dyer of the Western Kennebec Economic Development Alliance, a local economic development group; and Scott Hays of Maine Energy Performance Solutions, an alternative-energy company from the town of Washington.

The groups needed council's approval to move forward because the town owns the land.

They are applying for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding to see whether the site would be feasible for a solar power installation.

"What we're looking at is a 1-megawatt capacity, which generates enough power to run 800 homes," Dyer said.

If the project proves feasible on paper, promoters would then seek private funds for development. Dyer said investors might be interested in tax credits resulting from the project.

The former Superfund site is 13 to 20 acres, and the solar power generation would occupy less than half that, Dyer said.

"We would be looking at a smaller, exposed area with the best orientation to the sun," Dyer saisd.

Dyer, who lives in Winthrop, said the project idea resulted from his discussions with the principals of Maine Energy Performance Solutions, which recently installed a large solar panel system atop Damariscotta Hardware.

Dyer said EPA officials have indicated they will consider these types of proposals.

"They are very interested in alternatve uses for the former Superfund sites," Dyer said.

Superfund refers to the federal toxic-site cleanup program initiated in the early 1980s.

"We are very excited about the possibilities of taking an unwanted environmental nightmare and turning it into an economic asset, not only for Winthrop, but for other towns in the immediate area," Western Kennebec Economic Development Alliance President Jack Kaiser said in a prepared statement on Tuesday.

Dyer said the groups are moving forward rapidly on completing the application.

Town Manager Cornell Knight said the project does not require town funding. If it moves forward, land leases would be negotiated later.

In other business on Monday, councilors voted 5-2 to approve the Comprehensive Plan previously approved by the State Planning Office.

Councilors James Lattin and Ken Buck voted against the measure, but did not elaborate at the meeting.

Patrice Putman, former chair of the Winthrop Comprehensive Planning Comittee, notified all the committee members about the plan adoption via e-mail on Tuesday and thanked them for their work.

"The plan is posted on the Winthrop town website. It will be a living document," she said.


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