by Jacqueline Weaver
Ellsworth American news story
GOULDSBORO — Governor Paul LePage’s veto of a proposal that could pave the way to building the state’s largest solar farm in the village of Corea has been overturned by the Legislature.
But the developer, Kimball Kenway of Portland, said the project is still at least a year away — at best — from becoming a reality.
Kenway’s proposal is to build a $9.5-million solar installation with 9,500 photovoltaic panels on a more-than-12-acre site once used as a radar base by the Navy.
He said he needed a bill establishing solar renewable energy tax credits to make construction of the massive solar array economically feasible.
The bill was later downgraded to a study, approved by the Legislature, vetoed by LePage June 26 and then rescued by the Legislature in an override June 30.
The newest version of LD 1263 authorizes a study by the Public Utilities Commission of a new method of compensating electric customers for the power they generate.
The current vehicle for purchasing power from electric customers is “net metering,” which gives customers a credit on their electric bill for power they put back into the grid.
The study authorized by the surviving law likely would be completed by the end of the year or early next year and then would be presented to the Legislature’s Energy Committee.
Even if adopted by the House and Senate, the bill would still have to survive a possible veto by the Governor.
“If it survives a veto, then I assume there is going to be some kind of request for proposal process, so it’s accurate to say it will be a year before we see whether anything emerge from this,” Kimball said.
The public advocate before the PUC, Tim Schneider, has developed a framework in which solar generation would be compensated through a bidding process that reflects the value of power in a long-term contract.
Kenway said Schneider’s concept would make it possible for projects such as his to move forward as well as provide reimbursement for smaller solar generators.
In vetoing LD 1263, LePage lambasted the Legislature’s actions as a whole and did not directly address the merits of the bill.
“While they are busy high-fiving each other for hastily passing bills they haven’t even read, the Maine people are left disenfranchised and without true representation,” the Governor said.