BALTIMORE — With little discussion, a proposed solar farm in Washington County advanced a step on Thursday, as a state utility official accepted uncontested evidence in the case.
The next step will be a public hearing at Hagerstown Community College on Wednesday.
If there are no complications, Hearing Examiner Dennis Sober can soon recommend that Maryland Solar LLC be awarded a certificate of public need and necessity for its project.
Maryland Solar plans to install at least 100,000 photovoltaic cells on land at the state prison complex south of Hagerstown.
The project, at peak, is expected to generate about 20 megawatts, which would roughly double the solar power now on Maryland's grid.
The project is expected to create about 125 temporary construction jobs.
The hearing Thursday at the Maryland Public Service Commission headquarters in Baltimore lasted about 20 minutes, as parties told Sober they had settled on how the project should proceed. Sober accepted certain documents and statements into the record.
Representatives from Maryland Solar, the PSC's staff, the state Attorney General's Office and the Office of the People's Counsel — an advocate for utility customers — attended the hearing.
Michael C. Powell, an attorney representing Maryland Solar, said five state cabinet-level secretaries have signed onto a settlement for the project, with conditions.
According to a summary sheet, the project needs permits or approvals from the PSC; PJM, which coordinates electricity transmission in the region; the Maryland Department of the Environment, for pollution discharge elimination; and the Department of Natural Resources, for forest cutting or clearing.
Also, Washington County must review the site design, erosion sediment-control and construction drawings.
The project cleared an obstacle last month when the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a 20-year lease agreement.
To start, Maryland Solar will pay the state $32,050 a year to use 250 acres, or $128 an acre. The rent will rise 3 percent in the fourth year and every other year after that.
Sober said after Thursday's hearing that state agencies will have 15 days after Wednesday's public hearing to amend their recommendations.
If there are no major changes, Sober then will work on a proposed order for a permit.
If no one appeals the order, it will become final, unless the PSC decides to discuss the case further.