College to use solar to save on energy costs
Array will be built out of county
— Cecil College will become the latest county organization to embrace solar power as it begins to move forward with a plan to use solar panels to help defer electricity costs.
The college’s Board of Trustees voted on Thursday afternoon to start negotiating a contract with San Francisco-based NRG
Renew LLC to purchase solar power from a solar array that will eventually be built on the company’s land in Vienna. Under the agreement, NRG Renew will be responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the solar array, which will produce at least 2 megawatts of electrical energy.
Once the array is built, NRG Renew has projected that the college could save as much as $50,000 a year, said Dan Thompson, the college’s vice president of finance.
“From an energy production standpoint, this would produce about 65 percent of our consumption,” he added.
Though the solar panels will be located in Vienna, the array will be hooked up to the Delmarva grid and the college will see the savings as a credit on its electricity bill, Thompson said.
The college received seven proposals after it put out a request for proposal (RFP) in March and
interviewed three finalists before deciding on NRG Renew, Thompson said. Though NRG Renew is based in San Francisco, the company is global and already has a power plant in Vienna.
In addition, since NRG Renew owns the land the array will be built on and has a connection to the Delmarva grid, its proposal
was the most favorable to the college. NRG Renew was also the only bidder that proposed using a single axis system, where the panels move to follow the sun, which provides more energy production, Thompson said.
“As a company, they’re looking to aggressively put their vacant land into service in the renewable energy field,” he said. “So they’ve been looking at this site for two years and just as they were ready to go to market, our RFP came on-
line. So the timing worked out really well.”
Once the solar array is online, Cecil College will join a number of other county organizations that use solar power to offset energy costs. Cecil County Public Schools currently has three solar arrays located near various county schools and the town of Elkton completed a 2.2-megawatt solar array at the intersection of Route 40 and Landing Lane last fall. The IKEA distribution plant in Perryville also has a 4.9-megawatt system
that is owned by the company.
Much of the increase in solar arrays around the county is thanks to Standard Solar, a Rockville-based solar technology company that has been pitching its power purchase agreements — in partnership with SunEdison — to county and municipal officials. Under these agreements, the public entity only provides the land needed for the array and afterward reaps savings on its energy costs.
Both Standard Solar and
SunEdison submitted bids for the Cecil College job, and Standard Solar was
among the three finalists before losing out to NRG Renew.
A solar array, such as this one at the Cecil County School of Technology, will eventually be built in Vienna and help offset Cecil College’s energy costs.