Solar project to bring jobs, meet goals
SMECO, Origis combine for energy agreement
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.”