To the Editor: Addressing the Solar Ordinance concerns  

To the Editor: 

The Bar Harbor Climate Emergency Task Force was convened in January of 2020 with the mission of addressing the previously declared Climate Emergency. We write now to express our unanimous support for a “yes” vote on the “Land Use Ordinance Amendment – Solar Photovoltaics” that will be on the November ballot.  

We also wish to provide information on some concerns that have been raised about this ordinance. One such concern involves competition for land within the town, particularly for low-income housing or real estate development. The reality is that the ordinance is truly targeted for the development of solar in low-value areas that are either already owned by the town or are unsuitable for real estate development for some other reason, such as being a prior dumping site. Both of these are true for Higgin’s Pit, the area the town is currently considering developing into a solar farm. There are very few additional sites that would be attractive for a solar farm and our real estate costs are likely to deter solar developers from exploring land here.  

A second concern has been the idea that solar farms inappropriately waive lot coverage requirements. Lot coverage is a measure of the built area relative to the unbuilt area on a plot of land and exists primarily to ensure appropriate rainwater intrusion into the soil, thus preventing issues of erosion or flash-flooding in the surrounding area. Solar farms do allow for adequate water intrusion and drainage and should not be considered impervious surfaces. Indeed, the Maine DEP requires the planting of meadows below ground-mounted solar arrays, which would not survive without adequate sunlight and water. 

One additional concern is that the Solar Ordinance does not have adequate language protecting the natural environment around potential solar farms. In fact, there is no need for further regulations in the Solar Ordinance itself because solar developments are subject to all protections from town ordinances and state laws and regulations. The state of Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as well as Bar Harbor’s own Municipal Code already protect water runoff and soil erosion, as well as wetland buffers, etc. 

The Solar Ordinance is a wonderful way for the community to benefit from increased solar electricity production, which provides electricity with no point-source carbon emissions as well as reduced dependence on far-distant and centralized electricity sources. Allowing the construction of solar farms, where reasonable, improves the resiliency of our electrical grid for the future. Similar solar ordinances have been successfully enacted in many other towns in Maine, including Belfast, Hancock, Rockport, Topsham, Washington and York. In short, we urge the Bar Harbor residents to vote “yes” to the Solar Ordinance this November. 

Ruth Poland
Bar Harbor 

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