The 5-megawatt array in Madison generates enough electricity to power 700 homes.
MADISON — The largest solar array in the state is now fully operational, as the final 25 percent of the 26,000-panel array was brought online Wednesday.
The array, which will generate enough electricity to power 700 homes, is spread over more than 20 acres at the Madison Business Gateway.
Madison Electric Works, a department of the town of Madison, signed a 26-year agreement with Ohio-based IGS Solar to purchase all the electricity produced by the array at a fixed rate of 7.99 cents per kilowatt. After six years the utility will have the right to purchase the energy farm at an estimated cost of about $6 million.
The farm generates enough electricity to satisfy the needs of about 20 percent of the district’s customers. Advanced Solar Products designed and managed the installation while sub-contracting with Cianbro. The project was originally developed by Clear Energy, which was then secured by IGS Solar through a public bid process.
In a press release from IGS, Calvin Ames, general manager of MEW, said the nearly 5-megawatt project met all of their objectives.
“It was a priority for us to enlist Maine-based companies where possible, which meant nearly all of the labor involved in the installation was performed by highly skilled individuals living right here in the Pine Tree State,” he said. “Completion of this solar array allows MEW to continue to contain costs for our residential, commercial, and industrial customers, while also using renewable energy. It’s a win-win.”
In the release, IGS Solar Vice President Patrick Smith said this is the first project they have completed in Maine.
“Opportunities for solar in Maine continue to grow,” he said. “Working with MEW and the local team to help control area customers’ energy costs using this renewable energy source has been a great success. We look forward to being a long-standing sustainability partner to MEW well into the future.”
The Madison array is one of several either planned for or in development in the region. Both Waterville and Fairfield are exploring large scale solar arrays for their capped landfills with Gizos Energy LLC of Maine.
Another local company, NextEra Energy LLC, is also planning large scale projects in Fairfield and Farmington.
Earlier this summer, Cianbro announced that a 41,000-panel solar project in Pittsfield would go online by the end of 2017. Once fully operational, the Pittsfield array will surpass the size of the 26,000-panel farm at the Madison Business Gateway, as it occupies a 57-acre solar farm off U.S. Route 2. It will generate 9.9 megawatts. Central Maine Power will pay 8.45 cents per kilowatt-hour for that electricity over a 20-year contract.