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Solar farm project highlighted at Chamber breakfast

Maryland Solar LLC officials discuss $70 million facility being built at state prison complex

November 02, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Michael Enright, managing director of Beowulf Energy, talks at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday about a solar farm project under way in Washington County.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — The solar farm being built at the state prison system south of Hagerstown will have 175,000 panels on about 160 acres, an official with the solar company said Wednesday.

The $70 million project will generate about 20 megawatts of electricity at peak, enough to power about 2,250 average homes.

And it will move Maryland one step toward its mandate of having 20 percent of its electricity generated by renewable energy sources by 2022.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s StateStat website says the state is at 27 percent of its 2022 goal.

Representatives of Maryland Solar LLC, which is building the solar farm, covered highlights of the project Wednesday morning at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce “Eggs and Issues” breakfast in Hagerstown.

Michael Enright, the managing director of Beowulf Energy, the parent company of Maryland Solar LLC, said the company will have a partnership with Hagerstown Community College, which has an alternative energy technology program.

HCC’s new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math building will have a monitoring station for the solar farm.

A PowerPoint slide said HCC will be allowed to review design documents in classes and film the construction process. Maryland Solar will provide guest lecturers.

HCC President Guy Altieri said during the breakfast program that energy technology is a growing field.

Maryland Solar Executive Vice President Jon Moore said it took less than six months to go through the full state permitting process. A few local permits are pending.

Moore said the project is an ideal use of “compromised” land, meaning the land had little use because of its location on the prison complex.

The Weddle family had leased the land and farmed it for years. Enright said the Weddles still might get to farm land not devoted to solar panels.

Maryland Solar has a 20-year lease with the state to use 250 acres. However, Jim Nolan of Maryland Solar said the project should use no more than 160 acres, including access roads.

The panels are expected to be about two feet off the ground, in rows 15 feet apart.

Work on the project will start this year and will increase in the spring, Enright said. It’s expected to create about 125 temporary construction jobs, but only a few permanent jobs.

The project will be eligible for federal energy incentives of up to 30 percent of the cost, or roughly $21 million, if work begins this year.

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