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Firm planning solar power facility at Hagerstown prison has new owner

March 14, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

Maryland Solar LLC, the company that announced plans last year to build a 20-megawatt solar power-generating facility on the grounds of the Maryland Correctional Institution, has been acquired by First Solar Inc., which intends to complete the project by the end of the year.

Headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., First Solar announced the acquisition on Wednesday, but spokesman Alan Bernheimer said the cost of the purchase is not being disclosed.

“We expect to begin (construction) sometime in the second quarter,” said Roy Skinner, the project developer for First Solar.

The solar farm on about 160 acres of state prison land off Garis Shop and Roxbury roads should be completed by the fourth quarter of this year, Skinner said.

First Solar will use the thin-film, photovoltaic modules it manufactures for the solar farm, Bernheimer said. It makes the modules at plants in the United States, Germany and Malaysia, he said.

Maryland Solar LLC had originally planned to begin construction before the end of 2011 to take advantage of a federal grant in lieu of a 30 percent tax credit for renewable energy projects.

Although construction did not begin before the end of 2011,  Bernheimer said the tax credit is still available for the solar farm.

Jon Moore, a consultant to First Solar, said last year that the project would cost about $70 million to build. That estimate remains in that ballpark, Moore said Wednesday.

About 125 people will be employed during construction, and operation of the plant is expected to create “two to three full-time equivalents,” he said.

The agreement to lease the land from the state is still in effect, Moore said.

The plant is expected to be capable of generating enough electricity to power about 2,700 average homes and displace 23,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year — the equivalent of taking 4,400 cars off the road, according to a First Solar news release.

The project has a contract to sell electricity and renewable energy credits to FirstEnergy Solutions, the release said.

First Solar has another project in Emmitsburg, Md., a 16.1-megawatt project being built for Constellation Energy on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s College, Bernheimer said.

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