Cianbro’s 57-acre solar farm in Pittsfield has cleared its major regulatory hurdles toward getting the $24.2 million project in partial operation by December.

Environmental regulators last month cleared the project for construction and the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday gave the company the go-ahead to enter a long-term contract with Central Maine Power Co., under a state program to encourage development of renewable energy projects.

In its request for that PUC approval in June, Cianbro subsidiary Pittsfield Solar LLC said it had completed design of the project and the studies required to connect it to the grid and begin operating at around half capacity in December.

The project will have a maximum generation capacity of 9.9 megawatts and CMP will pay 8.45 cents per kilowatt-hour for that electricity over a 20-year contract period.

Since the PUC approved terms of that contract, the company moved the project from a site in Monroe to the site in Pittsfield, which it said would save about $2 million by being closer to an electrical substation.

The company told utilities commissioners that it expected to close the sale this week on the final piece of land required for the project.

It’s located on a 113-acre parcel off Route 2 in Pittsfield, land previously occupied by several structures and fields and woodland, according to the application from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The project will have 41,000 solar panels in a fenced-in 57-acre portion of that lot. The company expects the project to achieve full operation in June 2018.

When it enters service in December, the project will be the largest single solar farm in operation in the state. The largest so far, in Madison, went online at the end of 2016, with a capacity of about 5 megawatts.

Larger projects are in the works. Two proposals from Ranger Solar won bids in October to sell power from a 50-megawatt Sanford project and an 80-megawatt Farmington project to southern New England states.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.