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Concerns discussed at hearing on proposed solar farm

August 24, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

James M. Devine said during a public hearing Wednesday night that he was “somewhat (in) opposition” to a proposed solar farm at the state prison complex south of Hagerstown.

The Hagerstown-area resident aired several concerns about the project, including that the 125 jobs associated with it would only be temporary and would not do a lot to help the unemployment situation in Washington County.

Devine said he also questioned what taxpayers would get out of the project.

Devine was among a handful of people who spoke during the hearing led by county Hearing Examiner Dennis Sober at Hagerstown Community College.

Maryland Solar plans to install at least 100,000 photovoltaic cells on land at the state prison complex. At peak, the facility is expected to generate about 20 megawatts, which would roughly double the solar power now on Maryland’s grid.

On Aug. 18, the project advanced when a state utility official accepted uncontested evidence in the case.

In that hearing, parties told Sober they had settled on how the project should proceed. Sober accepted certain documents and statements into the record.

The next step in the process was Wednesday night’s hearing.

Sober said after the hearing that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ power plant research program has 15 days to add any more conditions to the permit.

If there are no changes, Sober said he can approve the project.

Another county resident at the hearing asked if any new power lines would be needed at the site.

Officials with the project initially said no new lines would be needed but later said that a “very short section” of line would be necessary.

Anna Barker, HCC’s vice president for administration and finance, said during the hearing that the college “fully supports the project.”

Barker said the project is a great opportunity for students to learn about solar power through internships.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said during the hearing that he was in “full support” of the project.

Attorney D. Bruce Poole, who is representing Maryland Solar, addressed the benefits of the project, including how the site is favorable for a solar project. Up against “razor wire,” the site is not suitable for housing, Poole said.

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