Balto. Co. to in­stall so­lar fields at four sites

So­lar City con­tract to save $450,000 in first year

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Pamela Wood pwood@balt­ twit­

Bal­ti­more County plans to in­stall so­lar panel ar­rays at four lo­ca­tions as part of a broad ef­fort to im­prove en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and use more clean en­ergy.

County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz said Mon­day that the county will work with So­larCity to in­stall pan­els with a to­tal gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity of 21 megawatts of elec­tric­ity at four lo­ca­tions: closed land­fills in Woodstock and Park­ton, and un­used por­tions of Mount Vista Park in Kingsville and the South­west Area Re­gional Park in Lans­downe.

So­larCity, a na­tional firm with lo­ca­tions in the Bal­ti­more re­gion, will own the pan­els. The county signed con­tracts to buy elec­tric­ity from the com­pany for the next 20 years, with a pos­si­ble ex­ten­sion for five more years. There is no up-front cost to the county.

In the first year, the county ex­pects to save $450,000 in elec­tric­ity costs.

“This is a smart use of gov­ern­ment re­sources,” Kamenetz said.

The cost of elec­tric­ity will vary by site, rang­ing from $0.075 to $0.082 per kilo­watt hour. The county cur­rently pays be­tween $0.09 and $0.105 per kilo­watt hour to Bal­ti­more Gas and Elec­tric Co. for elec­tric­ity, of­fi­cials said.

The so­lar pan­els will be in­stalled over the next two years.

So­larCity has worked out sim­i­lar ar­range­ments with sev­eral other ju­ris­dic­tions in Mary­land in re­cent years, said Brett Eskay, a se­nior project devel­op­ment man­ager for the com­pany. But Bal­ti­more County’s 21 megawatts will dou­ble the out­put of so­lar sys­tems that So­larCity has in­stalled for lo­cal gov­ern­ments in the state.

Eskay said a key fac­tor in the deal with Bal­ti­more County is hav­ing en­ergy prices locked down. “They know ex­actly what they’ll pay for so­lar power for the next 20 years,” he said.

Such ar­range­ments be­tween in­sti­tu­tions and so­lar com­pa­nies are not new. The Com­mu­nity Col­lege of Bal­ti­more County, for ex­am­ple, has so­lar pan­els on park­ing lot car­ports yield­ing 6.5 megawatts, in­stalled last year at its Dun­dalk, Es­sex and Ca­tonsville cam­puses.

CCBC’s pan­els are owned by Con­stel­la­tion En­ergy and the col­lege signed a 20-year deal to buy elec­tric­ity from the com­pany. The col­lege ex­pects to save $4 mil­lion on its elec­tric­ity bills over the life of the agree­ment.

Bal­ti­more County looked at a num­ber of com­pa­nies, then se­lected So­larCity, of­fi­cials said. The county’s con­tract pig­gy­backs on a con­tract with Mont­gomery County. The deal with So­larCity does not need ap­proval by the County Coun­cil.

Kamenetz also signed two ex­ec­u­tive or­ders on en­ergy use Mon­day.

The first sets a goal of re­duc­ing the use of elec­tric­ity in gov­ern­ment build­ings by 15 per­cent in five years. The sec­ond is a goal to get 20 per­cent of the county gov­ern­ment’s en­ergy needs from re­new­able sources by 2022. Of­fi­cials said the four so­lar panel fields will get the county to that goal.

The county has re­ceived a $390,000 grant from the Mary­land En­ergy Ad­min­is­tra­tion to help reach those goals. The county will use $310,000 from the Mary­land Smart En­ergy Com­mu­ni­ties Grant to make en­ergy ef­fi­ciency up­grades in county build­ings, and $80,000 for re­new­able en­ergy projects.

Josh Tulkin, di­rec­tor of the Mary­land Sierra Club, said Kamenetz’s ac­tions prove “so­lar en­ergy is both good for the en­vi­ron­ment and fis­cally re­spon­si­ble.”

County Coun­cil­man David Marks, a Perry Hall Repub­li­can, said he’s heard some con­cern from res­i­dents about where the so­lar pan­els will be in­stalled at Mount Vista, a park that is in his dis­trict. He said he hopes the ad­min­is­tra­tion can ad­dress such con­cerns be­fore the pan­els are in­stalled.

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