Brunswick residents plan to ‘farm’ solar power at Crystal Spring

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BRUNSWICK — Solar power continues to boom in Brunswick.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust announced Monday that its Crystal Spring Farm on Pleasant Hill Road would soon host a 286-panel, 76-kilowatt solar farm.

The news comes two weeks after a 160-panel, 40-kW solar array atop the Fort Andross Mill complex won approval from a town review board for installation in June.

The new solar farm will be owned by the Crystal Spring Farm Community Solar Association, a nonprofit formed to manage the panels that is made up of eight member families.

Forty-four percent of the energy produced by the array will go to the working farm, which is leased from the land trust by Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon. The rest of the estimated 100,000 kilowatt-hours generated by the panels will be divided among the seven other member households.

The cost of the panels is about $300,000, association President Steve Weems said. He expects that amount to be paid back in energy savings over a 15-year period.

Weems said an interesting aspect of the project is that apart from Crystal Spring Farm itself, all other recipients of the project’s energy live in other parts of Brunswick.

“People do (these farms) who can’t put solar on their roof for one reason or another,” he said Tuesday.

Weems, for example, lives on Thompson Street, near Coffin Elementary School. His house is surrounded by tall pine and oak trees, which are a great “air conditioning system,” he said, but make roof-mounted solar panels impossible.

Electricity customers such as Weems can buy into a solar farm and, in return, receive credits on their utility bills. All eight member families do live in Brunswick, “but by design, not necessity,” Weems said.

The Crystal Spring Farm solar association’s purchase of the solar arrays will benefit from the Solarize Brunswick discount from ReVision Energy of Portland. ReVision, through the Solarize program, had contracted 450 kW of capacity by Jan. 31, meaning customers could purchase power at the lowest price: $3.03 per watt.

Weems said even before the solarize program was announced last summer, he and other association members had begun talking about a joint venture on a community solar farm.

“All the participants are interested in and concerned about climate disruption and interested in doing something personally to move towards renewable energy,” he said.

Investing in the solar farm, he added, “is a tiny little step, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.”

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

A 76-kW community solar farm is planned at the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Crystal Spring Farm on Pleasant Hill Road in Brunswick.

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.