THOMASTON — The Thomaston Planning Board approved revisions to a site plan for a solar farm on New County Road while residents abutting the property said they were not notified in 2021 when the project was approved.

The planning board met Tuesday, Aug. 16 to approve changes to the site plan from Novel Maine Land Holdings, LLC of St. Paul, Minn. The plan is for a solar farm currently under construction on New County Road, between Flagship Cinemas and Dunkin’.

The approved changes were two phases of construction, different panels from the original plan and a reduction in megawattage.

Paula Fitzgerald, Vice President of Project Development, was present to represent Novel Energy.

The solar farm was first approved by the planning board March 2021, for NBD Solar, Maine, LLC. Novel Energy then purchased the project from NBD Solar.

Fitzgerald said the original project was five megawatts, but state law changed and the project was not far enough along to be grandfathered. It made sense to move forward with a smaller megawatt project instead.

Currently one megawatt is under construction, with the possibility of being two megawatts. Fitzgerald said the company is unsure of the timing on the second megawatt, if it will ever happen.

The solar panels are now single access tracker panels, meaning they rotate or tilt east/west. Fitzgerald said this generates higher productivity because the panels follow the sun.

Fitzgerald said the panels do not generate any noise.

The project will be constructed in two phases. Currently phase one is under construction. Fitzgerald said the timing of phase two will depend on a number of factors such as cost and timing.

Planning Board Chair Joanne Richards said she was pleased to see everything was basically the same as the originally approved plan.

Richards said she did want to make sure there were plans to put in trees along the fence to act as a buffer and a lock box for police and fire at the gate entrance. Fitzgerald agreed.

Fitzgerald said they hoped to have phase one mechanically complete by the end of September, and then they would await their site visit with CMP.

The company will also be offering subscriptions to residents for their electricity, she said. The town should expect to hear from the company as soon as possible.

Residents Craig Beal, Danielle Dunphy and Ashley Moore, abutters living on Amelia Drive, said this was the first they were hearing about the project. They said they did not receive the notices in 2021 when the project was first approved.

Dunphy asked how close the project would come to their trailers.

Fitzgerald said the construction would have to occur within the property the company owns, and that construction would be part of phase two. She said the company would try to stay as far away from the abutters as possible.

She said there would be a minimum of two years to receive approval from the state to begin phase two.

Richards, Fitzgerald and the abutters reviewed the maps and the site plans to address questions and concerns.

Moore said she just wished she and her neighbors had been notified, and she felt “blindsided” when she saw the plans.

Richards said she was under the impression all abutters had been notified and were part of last meeting.

Richard said the town had sent letter to the trailer park notifying them of the meeting in 2021, but it appeared the managers who received the notification did not inform the trailer park board. “I’m very sorry about that,” she added.

Richards said the abutters would be notified when phase two began, and Novel Energy would keep their construction as far away from the park as possible.

The board then reviewed and approved the revisions to the site plan.

Richards added she was very pleased to see the Department of Environmental Protection had approved the town’s decommissioning plan, and she was glad that had changed to take responsibility off the town.

The original plan was for the company to pay for the decommissioning and put a bond with the town. New requirements from the Department of Environmental Protection are that such a bond is now with the state.

The bond is $156,901.

In an Aug. 16 interview, Richards said the decommissioning plan was “very in depth” and most pieces will be reused.