Soaking in the sun
Cecil gov’t solar project ahead of schedule
— Phase one of Cecil County government’s first solar project is about two months ahead of schedule, but still awaits “permission to operate” from Delmarva Power, before energy savings can begin adding up.
“We’re delighted that
construction is done. It went quicker than expected, so we submitted our (permission to operate) to Delmarva Wednesday,” County Facilities Manager Steve Kuhls said Thursday, noting the tentative startup is scheduled for the week of Nov. 14-18. “We’ve reached out and are working with Delmarva to expedite the necessary activities and authorizations associated.”
Kuhls explained that
Delmarva has to come to the site and change the metering before it can be put into operation.
“There’s also some landscaping to be done yet, but that won’t interfere with the solar operation,” he said.
Kuhls told the Cecil County Council two months ago that the county had entered into a power purchase agreement with Solar City, one of the country’s largest solar array builders, to construct two arrays — one adjacent to the County Administration Building in Elkton and a second, larger array on the former site of The Highlands wastewater treatment plant that closed down earlier this year after the county connected the community to Meadowview Wastewater Treatment Plant on Fletchwood Road.
The county administration building solar project includes ground arrays installed on a 1.4 parcel adjacent to the north parking area and rooftop arrays on the east and south ends of the building. Roof and ground array installation is already finished and fencing has been installed around the ground array.
Construction of 8,322 solar panels on 10 acres of The Highlands’ 32-acre county owned land is expected to begin in December and be done by July. The Highlands site is in the process of connecting three-phase electrical service to the property from Jackson Hall School Road before construction can start.
The power purchase agreement guarantees the county will pay 6 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 20 years, compared to the average 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour it pays now, which is negotiated through a consortium with other jurisdictions. The guaranteed amount is based on a set production figure.
There’s no upfront costs to the county for the project other than the use of the land, while Solar City receives federal tax credits and keeps the difference between the negotiated price and market rates on excess electricity sold back to the power grid
Kuhls estimates the total first year savings from both sites at $212,000 for the county.
Solar City has also agreed to pay up to $350,000 for the electrical service upgrades, but if costs exceed that amount, the agreement allows the county to renegotiate the price per kilowatt hour with Solar City.
The county is the latest of many agencies and property owners who are at some stage of the process of acquiring solar energy to reduce existing electric costs.
West Nottingham Academy is also using Solar City to install a large array on its property in western Cecil County beginning in November.
Meanwhile, Cecil County Public Schools, Mount Aviat Academy, Cecil College, Cecil County Public Library, IKEA, and the town of Elkton are all embracing solar power with projects either completed or in the process.
Additionally, this year an increasing number of private land and homeowners are showing interest in solar energy.
County Council recently granted a rezoning request to Katherine Breslin, owner of 7.5 acres at the corner of Red Toad and Theodore roads in late June, from rural residential to northern agriculture residential for potential use as a solar array location.
The council is also expected to consider another rezoning request to enable a potential solar farm on Oct. 18. Carolyn Merriman and Ellen Johnson, who own 47 acres at 159 Waibel Road in Port Deposit, are asking to change its zoning from low- density resi- dential to northern agricultural residential, which would pave the way for solar installation. However, a second public permitting process is required before the use of the property for solar panels is approved.
Meanwhile, several residents, led by George Kaplan, of Colora, are investigating forming a county residential cooperative to enter into solar agreements for their own homes, while reaping the benefits of a group discounted rate.
A view of the County Administration Building in Elkton prior to the installation of thousands of solar panels.
Construction of solar panels on the ground and roof at the County Administration Building is done, but Delmarva Power must approve their request to operate, which is expected in November, if not sooner.