In response to increased solar development in Maine, the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) is proposing amendments to its rules regulating the permitting of solar energy generation facilities. With these proposed amendments, the LUPC hopes to ease the permitting of solar projects in the state, and specifically in Maine’s unorganized territories.
The LUPC serves as the planning and zoning authority for townships that have chosen not to administer land use controls at the local level or do not have local government.
The proposed amendments create four size classes of solar energy generation facilities:
- Accessory: A freestanding solar energy system that generates electricity or heat that is used on-site, and which has a project area of 750 square feet or less.
- Small-scale: A solar energy system that generates electricity or heat that is used on-site, and which has a project area of more than 750 square feet but not more than one acre.
- Mid-scale: A solar energy system that generates electricity that is either used on-site or commercially sold to be used off-site, and which has a project area of more than one acre but not more than 10 acres.
- Grid-scale: A solar energy system that generates electricity primarily or solely for commercial sale for off-site use, and has a project area of more than 10 acres.
The proposed amendments also identify six land use districts (referred to as “sub-districts”) where a small-scale, mid-scale, and/or grid-scale solar energy generation project would be permitted. The current rules allow the permitting only of large, grid-scale size solar projects, and only in two sub-districts.
Although the proposed amendments are an important move toward streamlining solar project permitting, the amendments are still quite conservative and favor solar projects designed for small-scale use. The proposed amendments will allow larger, commercial solar projects in only three sub-districts, a small fraction of the LUPC’s 32 land use sub-districts.
Interested stakeholders may submit comments on the proposed rule until October 23, 2022. For more information about the proposed amendments, the public comment process, or for help tailoring comments to have the most impact, please contact Pierce Atwood attorneys Matt Manahan (207.791.1189), Lisa Gilbreath (207.791.1397), Brian Rayback (207.791.1188), or Georgia Bolduc (207.791.1249).