Hancock solar power facility to go online in early January

The town signed a power-purchase agreement with Millennium 3 Energy of Hagerstown

December 30, 2011|By DON AINES |
  • Zebulon Hull stands beside one of five rows of solar panels at the Hancock Sewage Treatment Plant. The solar panels are expected to begin generating power in the next few weeks.
By Don Aines, Staff Writer

HANCOCK — Hundreds of blue photovoltaic solar panels stand on a gentle slope outside Hancock, not quite ready to begin supplying power to the town's sewage treatment plant.

That will change in early January when the solar power facility goes online, Town Manager David Smith said. Smith said he believes it will be the only sewage treatment plant in Maryland powered entirely by solar energy.

Hancock signed a power-purchase agreement with Millennium 3 Energy of Hagerstown after hearing proposals from Millennium and another company in 2010. Millennium 3 is building the facility, and the town will buy the electricity it produces, Smith said.

The 15-year agreement calls for Hancock to initially pay 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour, with the price increasing at a set rate over the life of the contract, Millennium 3 owner Phil Kelly said.

The contract also guarantees Hancock will never pay more than 90 percent of what it would have to pay for power from a utility, Kelly said.

Zebulon Hull of Hancock was among a small group of men working on the project recently. He said the array has 444 solar panels in five rows facing south to take maximum advantage of the sun's energy.

Hull, as a student from Hagerstown Community College's Alternative Energy Technology program, interned with a renewable energy company.

"His internship is completed now, and he's an employee," Kelly said.

The Maryland Energy Administration in April announced Hancock was receiving $104,000 through its Project Sunburst facility. Hancock is the only public institution in Washington County doing a Project Sunburst project, Kelly said.

The project ended up costing about $440,000, less than first estimated because the price of solar panels has dropped, Kelly said.

The solar facility is expected to provide all the electricity needed to power the sewage treatment plant, Smith said. Any surplus will be purchased to defray the town's other electrical utility costs, he said.

The plant should produce about 132,000 kilowatt hours of power a year, which Kelly said is more than the plant needs to operate in a year.

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