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Plan for solar power array at MCI gets tentative OK

September 12, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Maryland Solar plans to install at least 100,000 photovoltaic cells on land at the state prison complex south of Hagerstown.
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

HAGERSTOWN — A proposal to build Maryland’s biggest solar array near the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown has received tentative approval from a Maryland Public Service Commission judge and an attorney working on the project said construction could start in the fall.

Public Utility Law Judge Dennis Sober issued a proposed order Wednesday to grant Easton, Md.-based Maryland Solar LLC a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The order becomes final Oct. 8 unless it is appealed.

Attorney D. Bruce Poole, who is representing Maryland Solar, said Monday that the tentative approval for the project was a “very significant” development for Washington County because the county could become nationally known for its solar energy production.

“Hopefully this is first and not the last,” Poole said.

Unless there is a “horrendous” winter, crews should be able to build the solar array through the winter, Poole said.

It will take about 10 months to build the facility, and it is expected to begin generating electricity next year, Poole said.

The work will involve making small borings in the ground and a detailed design to link the panels in a grid, Poole said.

Maryland Solar wants to place 100,000 solar panels on 250 acres near the medium-security Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown. The project would generate up to 20 megawatts of electricity, making it Maryland’s largest solar array.   

A public hearing on the project was held Aug. 24 at Hagerstown Community College and several people spoke, including Hagerstown-area resident James M. Devine.

Devine aired several concerns about the project, including that the 125 jobs associated with it would 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.

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

Officials with the project said that a “very short section” of line would be necessary.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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