Regulators propose $148K fine for erosion violations at Embden solar farm

State regulators visiting the site found sediment was flowing from the project into both a brook and the Kennebec River.
Solar panels on a hill
Solar panels in Maine.

State environmental regulators have proposed a $148,836 fine for a Delaware-based solar company after concluding that the company failed to control erosion on a project along the Kennebec River in the Somerset County town of Embden, just north of Skowhegan.

In documents released this week, Maine Department of Environmental Protection officials outlined a string of violations, including inadequately installed and maintained erosion controls that allowed sediment to flow into the nearby Kennebec River and Alder Brook.

The documents also note that at one point, 30 acres of the 35-acre site were disturbed and unstable, three times the amount allowed under department rule.

The five-megawatt project is being developed by Tower Solar Partners, a limited liability corporation registered in Delaware with a New York address. The company hired Skowhegan-based Bonneau & Son Excavation LLC as the civil contractor for the site. 

DEP staff were notified of sediment leaving the site and entering Alder Brook in October 2022, roughly a year and a half after Tower Solar received a DEP permit for the project, by a neighbor and the town’s code enforcement officer, who sent photographs. 

According to a memo released this week, regulators visiting the site several days later found that sediment was flowing from the project into both the brook and the Kennebec River, and 30 acres had been “grubbed and graded without adequate stabilization measures.” 

The day after the visit, photos taken by the code enforcement officer also showed evidence of logging equipment that tracked “large amounts of sediment” onto Kennebec River Road; several days after that, a silt fence was found to have failed.

In response, Tower Solar Partners updated its erosion and sedimentation control plans, and agreed to a number of corrective measures, including hiring a third-party inspector, and dedicating a crew to inspect and maintain erosion controls. 

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection will consider the proposed consent agreement at a Feb. 1 meeting.

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Kate Cough

Kate Cough is editor of The Maine Monitor. Before that, she served as enterprise editor for the Monitor while also covering energy and the environment and writing the weekly Climate Monitor newsletter. Before joining the Monitor, Kate was a beat reporter for The Ellsworth American and digital media strategist for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. Kate graduated with honors from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Magna Cum Laude from Bryn Mawr College.
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