Frequently Asked Questions
What is Walden Solar Maine III?
Walden Solar Maine III is a planned 35-megawatt solar photovoltaic (“PV”) project proposed in the Town of Lovell, Maine (“Project”). The Project is located between Christian Hill Road and Shave Hill Road on roughly 177 acres of private property. The Project will generate clean, renewable electricity for decades while avoiding adverse impacts on the natural, environmental, and scenic resources of the community. The Project will make significant tax payments to the Town as a contracted, generating this tangible local benefit while supplying power to Mainers across the state. The Project will require no municipal services of any kind.
How does solar work?
Solar PV creates electricity from sunlight. Solar PV panels convert sunlight into direct current (“DC”) electricity that is then converted to alternating current (“AC”) electricity by inverters so it can be injected onto the Maine electric grid. Solar PV systems have been widely deployed across the United States and across Maine. Solar PV projects are safe and require very little maintenance. The solar panels used in large-scale projects are the same panels that are used in millions of homes and businesses across the U.S. This form of power generation requires no fuel source and produces zero emissions in the process of producing power.
Who are we?
The Project is being developed by Walden Renewables Development (“Walden”). The founders of Walden have been developing renewable energy projects in the Northeast since 2011 and have deep roots in the Maine. Once the project receives a permit, Walden will finance, construct, own and operate the project. In addition to this Project, Walden is constructing or developing 13 other solar projects in Maine. Walden is developing over 25 solar projects across the U.S., for a total of 1.6 gigawatts of electricity.
What benefits will this project bring to the community?
The Project will generate approximately 62,780,000 kilowatt-hours annually of clean, local electricity to Maine ratepayers, enough to power 9,500 Maine homes per year.
Under a signed long-term agreement with the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the Project is committed to paying $147,000 in annual tax and community benefit payments (escalating at 2% per year). This equates to over $8,800,000 in taxes and community benefit payments over the project’s 40-year life. This guarantees the community strong, stable, long-term tax revenue without putting any burden on local services.
Under the same agreement with the PUC, the Project will also fund $28,000 per year (escalating at 2% per year) for the solar technician job training program at Kennebec Valley Community College. A renewable energy technician is currently one of the fastest growing occupations in the country: https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/fastest-growing-occupations.htm
This program will help bring high paying jobs into the Maine economy.
These contracted commitments and supporting documentation can be found in the following PUC Case File, linked here.
What are the costs to the town?
This Project does not require any new municipal services from the Town, such as water, sewer, or schools.
What happens to the electricity generated by the Project?
All of the electricity generated by the Project will stay in Maine and be sold to Central Maine Power (CMP) under a long-term fixed price agreement at 3.6 cents/kWh. That rate is approximately 70% cheaper than the 2022 CMP residential electricity rate of 11.8 cents/kWh, and will help control future rate increases to CMP customers.
How long will this Project be operational?
This Project’s useful life is between 30-40 years. The Project will be built on land that is leased for 30 years, with two potential 5-year extension periods.
What happens when the Project reaches the end of its useful life?
At the end of its useful life, all equipment will be removed from the site and property returned to a natural state. Financial assurance for this is required to be available on Day 1 by State Law. The Maine DEP has access to this bond or letter of credit to complete the decommissioning work. The Town will not be responsible for any clean up or restoration, and no material will be disposed of at the Lovell town dump. Decommissioning requirements are mandated by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and are part of the Project’s state permit. More information on decommissioning requirements can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/dep/land/sitelaw/application-text-2015.pdf.
What are the major components of the Project?
Solar photovoltaic panels. The primary component of the Project is the arrays of solar photovoltaic panels. These panels employ technology that has been proved effective for decades and is the same equipment installed on millions of homes and business across the U.S. and globally. The panels are very long lived, with a 12-year material and workmanship warranty and a 25-year production warranty. The upper edge of the arrays will live approximately 13 feet off the ground, and the lower edge will be approximately 3 feet above the ground.
Fixed and tracking racks. The vast majority of the equipment in solar projects lives in the air and never comes into contact with the ground. The equipment is anchored with steel posts. The posts are then connected to racking systems that support the panels in the air. This project will feature both fixed racks, which are installed in east-west strings at a fixed angle of approximately 30 degrees to the south, as well as tracking racks, which are installed in north-south strings and tilt from 60 degrees east to 60 degrees west throughout the day to track the sun.
The land below and between the panels will be planted with a native conservation seed mix, including pollinator friendly species, to ensure the site quickly develops into a natural meadow. These grasses will be maintained by mowing no more than twice per year, and to add value to the Project, Walden is investigating the use of sheep to graze the site in whole or in part. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection prohibits the use of herbicides or pesticides on solar energy projects.
Inverters. Inverters are used to convert the DC electricity generated by the project to AC electricity used in our homes and on the electricity grid. They are installed on concrete pads about 20 feet by 20 feet in area. The project will be interconnected to the CMP power grid by a power line consisting of three medium voltage wires attached to 35-40 foot wooden poles, the same types of structures that are commonly seen along the side of the road in this region.
Fencing. The panel arrays will be surrounded by agricultural fencing that will allow small animals to freely access the site and fit the rural character of the surrounding area.
What maintenance does the Project need?
The Project will require minimal maintenance over its life. Maintenance will be overseen by Walden, the Project owner, and carried out by operations and maintenance contractors, who will monitor the Project 24/7/365. Routine maintenance consists of twice annual mowing of the grass, annual visual inspections, and drone inspections. There will be no nighttime lighting at the site.
Due to the low maintenance requirements, the Project will not create any new traffic once construction is complete.
Where can the Project be seen from?
Walden engaged Maine landscape architects from TJD&A to conduct a viewshed analysis and visual assessment for this Project. The viewshed analysis determined that overall visibility of the solar arrays from within the Town of Lovell and surrounding communities is very limited, with only 0.13% of the entire Town having any visibility of the panels. Additionally, only one of the seven listed scenic views in the Town Comprehensive Plan, Christian Hill, will have any panel visibility. Of the 13,000 feet along all of Christian Hill Road, portions of the Project will be visible from 10% of that length. In no area will the Project be visible in entirety.
Will the Project be visible from Kezar Lake?
No. There will be no visibility from Kezar Lake, Kezar Pond, Sabattus Mountain, Smarts Hill, Bryant Hill, Eastman Hill, or Hatch Hill. Several standard wooden poles will cross the southern area of Route 5 to get to the substation, but no panels will be visible from this area
Will the Project make any noise?
Solar panels don’t produce any noise. When the sun is out, the inverters that convert the electricity current from DC to AC produce a very faint hum. This hum is not audible past the property boundaries. No noise is produced at night, as the project does not generate any electricity during this time.
Will the Project produce any glare?
Solar panels are designed to absorb sunlight and reflectivity is very low. Government publications and research on this subject demonstrate that PV modules exhibit less glare than windows and water. Panels are manufactured with anti-reflective glass front surfaces and only reflect about 2 percent of incoming light.
Solar PV modules are specifically designed to reduce reflection, as any reflected light cannot be converted into electricity. PV modules have been installed without incident at many airports, a local example of this is the Sanford Airport Project in Maine that has been installed in the airport apron with the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration.
 Evan Riley, Scott Olson, "A Study of the Hazardous Glare Potential to Aviators from Utility-Scale Flat-Plate Photovoltaic Systems", International Scholarly Research Notices, vol. 2011, Article ID 651857, 6 pages, 2011. https://doi.org/10.5402/2011/651857
What are the environmental outcomes of the Project?
The Project is not anticipated to result in impact to any rare, threatened, or endangered species. A mostly forested site that is managed for timber will be converted to active meadow that will continue to support numerous local plant and animal species. Detailed site-specific surveys have also been performed to identify regulated natural resources such as wetlands, streams, and vernal pools so impacts to these resources could be avoided during the design of the project and where unavoidable impacts would be minimized. The project as proposed would not represent an undue or adverse impact to any natural resource identified within the survey area.
The clean electricity generated by the Project will displace electricity generated by fossil fuels, resulting in annual CO2 emissions reductions equal to the CO2 sequestered by 54,000 acres of mature forest, or the CO2 emitted by 9,600 cars each year. Greenhouse gas emissions reductions and equivalence metrics can be found at the US Department of Environmental Protection Agency’s website: https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator.
Will the Project impact storm water and run-off?
The Project requires a stormwater permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP), pursuant to the Site Location of Development Act (SLODA) 38 M.R.S.A. §§ 481-490:
https://www.maine.gov/dep/land/sitelaw/application-text-2015.pdf. The plan will be reviewed and approved by stormwater engineers within MDEP. The Project will use best management practices to comply with all state stormwater requirements. Under these regulations, the project must be self-treating, and no increase in storm water strength or volume is allowed as a result of the project. A detailed Erosion and Sedimentation control plan will be followed to ensure project compliance with the Chapter 500 Maine Stormwater rules.
Will any chemicals be used to maintain the land?
No. The meadow area under the Project area will be completely free of any herbicides or pesticides, per the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s requirements. It will be planted with a native conservation seed mix and maintained by mowing no more than twice per year.
Will the Project affect my property value?
Numerous independent, third-party studies have found that solar projects have no measurable impacts on property values. Several of these studies can be found at the following links: