South Portland hopes to turn on solar energy by September

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city’s new solar array could be generating energy by early September.

While construction workers labored in the background, city officials hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the solar farm on Tuesday, July 18.

Work on the array began a month ago, starting with the construction of an access road, fencing and other site work at the city’s 34-acre capped landfill at 929 Highland Ave. The former landfill is behind the city’s transfer station and new public services facility.

The farm consists of more than 2,900 solar panels in six long rows. The array is expected to generate 1.2 million kilowatts of clean, renewable energy per year, which will equal about 12 percent of the electricity used by the city’s municipal and school buildings.

“The generation of renewable solar energy on the city’s capped landfill has long been identified as one of South Portland’s climate action goals,” Julie Rosenbach, the city’s sustainability director, said in a press release. “Our collaboration with Portland and partnership with ReVision Energy on this project has enabled us to take a large step forward in the transition to clean, renewable energy.”

The City Council approved installation of the photovoltaic array by Portland-based ReVision Energy in February.  

The project will maximize the use of a federal investment tax credit to bring down costs. However, to take advantage of the tax credit, the city will not take ownership of the solar array for at least six years and has agreed to purchase electricity generated by the project. The city will have an option to buy the system from ReVision during year seven at a reduced cost. 

Over the 40-year life of the project, the city is expected to save more than $3 million.

The solar array is a joint project with the city of Portland, which will be installing an identical system at its Ocean Avenue landfill. 

Ballast forms arrived on the site July 12, and on July 24 workers will start to pour concrete. Plans call for the panels to be installed over the next two weeks.

“We would like to be done the first or second week of September,” Zachary Good, ReVision project manager, said. “It might be ambitious, but we are aiming high.”

Mayor Patti Smith said she never gets tired of hearing the array is the largest municipal solar project in the state and hopes South Portland will inspire other cities.

“We are solving a regional issue through municipal partnerships,” Smith said.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

Employees of Portland-based ReVision Energy on July 18 work on South Portland’s municipal solar farm at 929 Highland Ave.