Gi­ant so­lar pro­ject planned for QA’s

Record Observer - - Front Page - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY ck­ersey@ches­

MILLING­TON — A Stevensville-based com­pany has plans to con­struct a mas­sive so­lar panel pro­ject on three tracts of land, to­tal­ing 337 acres, on Jones Farm Lane in Queen Anne’s County.

“The pro­ject will con­sist of 205,996 so­lar pan­els. Th­ese pan­els pro­duce DC

cur­rent which is con­verted to AC cur­rent by in­vert­ers. The sys­tem pro­vides AC cur­rent to the elec­tri­cal grid,” said Frank Depew, pres­i­dent of Ur­ban Grid Hold­ings, which owns the pro­ject.

The com­pany filed an ap­pli­ca­tion with the Mary­land Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, ask­ing for a cer­tifi­cate of pub­lic con­ve­nience and ne­ces­sity to con­struct the 56.70 megawatt so­lar fa­cil­ity on the site, near Milling­ton to­ward the Delaware line.

On Mon­day, Feb. 13, Depew re­leased an email state­ment, say­ing “The pro­ject would rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in the county, with a cap­i­tal cost of ap­prox­i­mately $105 mil­lion, pro­vid­ing sig­nif­i­cant tax rev­enue to the lo­cal com­mu­nity.”

“We es­ti­mate that the pro­ject would cre­ate ap­prox­i­mately 150 to 175 de­sign, man­age­ment, and con­struc­tion jobs for per­son­nel work­ing re­motely or on the site at the height of con­struc­tion,” he said.

Con­struc­tion is ex­pected to start later this year and be com­pleted by De­cem­ber 2018, pend­ing all the ap­provals needed, ac­cord­ing to the ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the Pub­lic Ser vice Com­mis­sion.

Mary­land law re­quires the fil­ing of such ap­pli­ca­tions at least two years prior to the com­mence­ment of con­struc­tion. The com­pany’s ap­pli­ca­tion asks the com­mis­sion to waive the rule.

The pro­ject will in­ter­con­nect to the elec­tric dis­tri­bu­tion grid serv­ing Mary­land via the con­struc­tion of an on­site sub­sta­tion, said the com­pany’s ap­pli­ca­tion.

In the doc­u­ments filed with the com­mis­sion, the ap­pli­cant is listed as Jones Farm Lane So­lar LLC, but Ur­ban Grid is the owner. The ap­pli­cant’s tes­ti­mony is due be­fore the com­mis­sion on Feb. 24 and tes­ti­mony of other par­ties due on July 10. A pub­lic hear­ing will be held on Aug. 8.

The site with the ad­dress of 48 Jones Farm Lane, Milling­ton, is lo­cated in an agri­cul­ture zon­ing district. Util­ity-scale so­lar gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties are per­mit­ted in such ar­eas in Queen Anne’s County as a con­di­tional use, said the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“The ap­pli­cant will ap­ply for a spe­cial ex­cep­tion for the pro­ject from Queen Anne’s County,” said the ap­pli­ca­tion.

So far, the county gov­ern­ment hasn’t re­ceived such a re­quest, but the county has al­ready filed le­gal pa­per­work ask­ing the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion to con­sider it a party in the case, ac­cord­ing to other doc­u­ments filed with the com­mis­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to Depew, the Ur­ban Grid pro­ject will be “ground mounted so­lar in­stal­la­tion, which in­volves the in­stal­la­tion of flat so­lar pan­els low to the ground on metal posts. Th­ese pan­els are tracking pan­els and they will fol­low the sun through­out the day from east to west, thereby pro­duc­ing the most en­ergy pos­si­ble.”

“Be­sides the small post foun­da­tions, un­der­ly­ing land will re­main per­vi­ous and be planted with na­tive, low-ly­ing grass species for max­i­mum en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship,” Depew said.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the pro­ject would lease the un­der­ly­ing land from a lo­cal landowner, who will re­ceive lease rev­enue through­out the pro­ject’s life.

The ap­pli­ca­tion says the pro­ject is an “al­ter­nat­ing cur­rent so­lar pho­to­voltaic fa­cil­ity.” Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion spokesman Tori Leonard said the phase is a tech­ni­cal term and the pro­ject would in­volve the in­stal­la­tion of so­lar pan­els.

The pro­ject will ei­ther sell elec­tric­ity into the re­gional elec­tric­ity mar­ket on a com­pet­i­tive ba­sis or sell elec­tric­ity di­rectly to one or more large elec­tric con­sumers, Depew said.

“Del­marva Power and Chop­tank Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive will not pur­chase the elec­tric­ity di­rectly and Del­marva Power and Chop­tank Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive cus­tomers will not pay for any costs associated with the pro­ject, in­clud­ing for elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated by the pro­ject,” he said.

Ur­ban Grid’s af­fil­i­ates own so­lar projects that pro­vide Kent County and the town of Den­ton with so­lar en­ergy which off­sets their use of en­ergy from the elec­tri­cal grid. In Delaware, Ur­ban Grid also op­er­ates fa­cil­i­ties for Delaware Tech­ni­cal Com­mu­nity Col­lege at the Dover, Ge­orge­town and Wilm­ing­ton cam­puses.

In Mary­land, Ur­ban Grid owns and op­er­ates so­lar projects for Har­ford Com­mu­nity Col­lege and Al­legheny County.

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