Northern Maine gains largest private solar farm to date
CARIBOU, Maine — A Fort Kent-based contractor believes the solar power installation he recently completed in Caribou is the largest of its kind in Maine.
Dale Roy is the only person north of Bangor with a NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) credential, and has installed countless solar grids in Aroostook County.
Roy formed his company, Maine Solar and Wind, in 2006 and mostly installs large grid-tied solar systems, but has also installed pole-mount grids for northern Maine homes. Recently, he and his crew of five finished the County’s largest private solar farm to date.
Located on 416 Van Buren Road in Caribou, Roy’s latest project contains 945 panels with the capacity to produce 247 kilowatts per hour.
“The client is Neal Griffeth of Griffeth Ford in Caribou,” Roy said. “He will be able to offset the power bill at his three dealerships with this. Basically, if he generates 1 KW hour here he can offset that at his business. It’s pretty much going to wipe out his electric bill.”
Roy added that while solar farms of this magnitude, which utilize GPS technology to track the sun, are not cheap, they are a great investment for business owners like Griffeth.
The large scale project required a couple months of planning, prepping the site, and another three or four months of installation at the Van Buren Road site.
“We have to have a proper site with a clear view of the sky,” Roy said. “Once we find that, we begin the construction process. It took us most of last year to install this system.”
Installation, according to Roy, also required heavy equipment such as cranes, payloaders, and excavators.
“As far as I know,” Roy said. “This is the largest privately owned system in the state of Maine right now.”
In 2016, Maine Solar and Wind installed a 75 KW system in St. Agatha and a 64 KW solar farm in Fort Kent.
“We were busy last year,” Roy said.
This private solar farm, like many other large-scale solar operations, utilizes state-of-the-art technology in order to get the most energy.
“There are two motors that turn the top portion of the panel, which can move 180 degrees,” Roy said. “Another motor tilts it upward towards the sun. Everything is computerized, and there’s a grey box on top with a computer that uses a GPS so it can determine if it’s cloudy, rainy, or snowy, and direct the panel where it needs to be.”
A common misconception with solar power in Maine, according to Roy, is that there is not enough sun during the winter.
“We have short days in the winter, but longer days in the summer,” Roy said. “The main issues with solar power are rainfall, cloud cover, pollution, and smog. There is basically no pollution up here, and not as much rain as other places. Average sun hours are a slightly better in Portland, and you have to go all the way down to Carolina for higher sun averages.”
Another advantage to utilizing solar in Maine is the colder temperatures. Roy says that, like a superconductor, cold weather reduces electrical resistance.
“Even today,” Roy said on Feb. 28, “those panels are pushing out crazy amounts of power. You might have more sun in a place like Florida, but they also have much more heat.”