Soak­ing in the sun

Ce­cil gov’t so­lar project ahead of sched­ule

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CHERYL MATTIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

ELK­TON

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.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF BOB FITZNER

A view of the County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in Elk­ton prior to the in­stal­la­tion of thou­sands of so­lar pan­els.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CHERYL MATTIX

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.

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