So­lar project to bring jobs, meet goals

SMECO, Origis com­bine for en­ergy agree­ment

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CHAR­LIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­

South­ern Mary­land Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive (SMECO) and Origis En­ergy USA re­cently reached an agree­ment to de­velop a so­lar fa­cil­ity in Charles County, a part­ner­ship that aims bring jobs and eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties to the area.

The 27.5-megawatt (MWAC) so­lar power project will be lo­cated on 300 acres of land along Ri­p­ley Road in La Plata. As part of the agree­ment, SMECO will buy all gen­er­ated en­ergy, ca­pac­ity and So­lar Re­new­able En­ergy Cred­its (SRECs) from the Origis-cre­ated plant for the next 25 years. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is re­quired to meet a state-man­dated en­vi­ron­men­tal bench­marks, and the Origis col­lab­o­ra­tion will al­low SMECO to do so at an af­ford­able cost.

“What this projects rep­re­sents is a large-scale so­lar foot­print that will have the mu­tual ben­e­fit

of sav­ing en­ergy and help­ing SMECO meet it’s re­new­able en­ergy portfolio stan­dard,” said Tom Den­ni­son, SMECO man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of gov­ern­ment and public af­fairs.

Origis of­fers so­lar en­ergy to util­ity, com­mer­cial and public sec­tor clients on an in­ter­na­tional level. The com­pany, based in Mi­ami, has sys­tems in Europe, Latin Amer­ica and the United States. Origis makes a point of work­ing with en­gi­neer­ing firms and con­struc­tion crews in the re­gions of op­er­a­tion. This means an eco­nomic boon for La Plata and the sur­round­ing area.

“For the to­tal con­struc­tion pe­riod, up to 300 peo­ple will be work­ing on that site, of which 80 per­cent is lo­cal work­force,” said Origis Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Jo­han Van­hee. “Whether you do ma­jor con­struc­tion on the is­land of Si­cily, Italy, or you do it ... in South­ern Mary­land, you al­ways rely on lo­cal folks.”

Van­hee said the project is cur­rently in the en­gi­neer­ing and per­mit­ting process, which will last 14 to 18 months. Con­struc­tion will be­gin at the end

of 2018, and the fa­cil­ity should be fully op­er­a­tional by mid-2019.

In 2017, com­pa­nies like SMECO were re­quired to pur­chase 1.15 per­cent of their en­ergy from so­lar re­sources. Fail­ing to meet that thresh­old re­sults in a monetary penalty, and the per­cent­age bumps up each year un­til reach­ing 2.5 per­cent in 2020. Af­ter work­ing with the Na­tional Re­new­ables Co­op­er­a­tive Or­ga­ni­za­tion (NRCO) to eval­u­ate ap­prox­i­mately 20 sub­mis­sions, SMECO de­cided Origis of­fered the most ben­e­fi­cial pack­age.

“It’s in­cum­bent upon us to make the best deals that we can to ful­fill those obli­ga­tions,” Den­ni­son said. “This ar­range­ment with Origis I be­lieve is a very good ben­e­fit for not only the county but for SMECO and cer­tainly for the in­vest­ments of so­lar en­ergy.”

Charles County has be­come a pop­u­lar lo­ca­tion for so­lar en­ergy projects, as the Ri­p­ley Road fa­cil­ity marks the third op­er­a­tion in the re­gion, join­ing the five MWAC fa­cil­ity in Hugh­esville and the 10 MWAC fa­cil­ity in Wal­dorf.

“It’s a mix­ture of [fac­tors],” Van­hee said. “The regulatory con­tracts need to be there. Public opin­ion needs to be very much in fa­vor, and we have been over­whelmed by ini­tial re­sponses from the public. There needs to be suf­fi­cient so­lar re­sources, and Mary­land is right there where we need it to be.”

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