MILO, Maine — As Maine continues to explore and build renewable energy projects in the state, it was only fitting that Friday was full of sunshine in Milo. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Milo Solar project site to celebrate its "energizing."
“The folks in Milo might not realize when they go home tonight and flip the switch on their stove or whatever that they’re actually getting it from the sun," Dirigo Co-founder Robert Cleaves said.
Dirigo Solar, BNRG Renewables, The Carlyle Group, and the town of Milo worked together on bringing the project online. The idea for installing tens of thousands of solar panels in town was first discussed six years ago, and two years ago the site was still an empty lot and potato field.
“It’s incredibly gratifying on so many levels," Cleaves added.
This project is one of eight in total Dirigo Solar and BNRG Renewables are working on across the state. Milo Solar is the largest and is now the largest solar project in Maine with 67,000 panels.
The 27-megawatt project will power approximately 3,400 Maine homes each year. This site will also prevent approximately 25,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere annually. Cleaves said the project will save close to $30 million for consumers over the life of the project.
The location for the project, and future projects, are chosen for three main reasons. First, Cleaves said, you need to have the right type of land. He added this site in Milo was part of an industrial park and ready for development. Second, the site needs to be near the power grid, and lastly, it needs to pass all the environmental checklists, Cleaves said.
The project will not only generate renewable energy for local residents it also created 170 construction jobs last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins was in attendance at the ceremony and said this project is a wonderful development for Milo. She added that her focus in Washington will be to help find ways to store this solar energy.
“It’s important that we make an investment by the Department of Energy into energy storage that’s important for not only solar but wind energy as well," she said.
There is currently limited technology to store wind energy when the turbines aren't moving, and solar energy when the sun isn't shining.
Cleaves said the Dirigo Solar project sites in Oxford, Fairfield, and Augusta will be "energized" this month.