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Mount solar farm work underway

Richard D. L. Fulton

(10/8) Mount Saint Mary’s University may be only months away from hosting an operational solar photovoltaic power system presently under construction by Baltimore-based Constellation Energy.

The system, more commonly referred to as a solar energy farm, is being sited on 100 acres of the Mount’s 1,400-acre campus, which Constellation Energy is leasing from the university.

Ron Melchior, vice president of Renewable Energy for Constellation Energy, said the his company’s involvement in building the new solar power system began in 2008 when his firm bid on the project.


As can be seen in this aerial photograph, work has begun on Constellation Energy's
100-acre solar power system being constructed at at Mount Saint Mary's University.
The facility is expected to be operational in early 2012.

Creation of the solar energy farm was proposed jointly by the University System of Maryland and the Maryland Department of General Services as part of the state Generating Clean Horizons initiative.

Soon after, Constellation Energy began to negotiate a lease from Mount Saint Mary’s in order for the institution to serve as the home for the “roughly $60 million” facility. Constellation Energy will own the solar energy generation system once it is completed.

The company broke ground to mark the commencement of the construction of the project during the first week of October. Melchior stated that the construction should be completed in early 2012, “depending on how harsh the winter is.”

The facility is expected to generate 16.1 megawatts of power, the vice president said, making it the “largest solar system to date in Maryland.”

Around 50 percent of the power generated “will be purchased by the University System of Maryland, and the other half will be purchased by the Maryland Department of General Services,” he said.

Melchior said Constellation Energy presently generates about 25 megawatts of solar power in Maryland, of which 80 percent is generated by roof-mounted solar panels.

As part of the deal struck with the Mount to serve as the host for the project, Constellation Energy is also constructing a 1.4 megawatt system that will produce solar energy strictly for the university, nearly half of the estimated three megawatts consumed by the institution. That facility will also be located on the Mount’s land, and the Mount will purchase the power generated for the institution.

Mount President Thomas H. Powell said, “We got involved thanks to the constellation people, who approached us (about constructing the facility at the university). We had land that is developable, and were looking to partner (on a project) with our land.”

In addition to the power to be generated for the Mount, Constellation will also be constructing a parking garage, which the Mount can use, so that solar panels can be mounted on its roof. Powell said the company has also provided the Mount with a grant to construct a solar energy educational center.

“We have worked with a lot of companies, (over the years),” the university president said, “and the Constellation people have been excellent and professional, and have been understanding about doing a construction project on an active campus.“

“There is absolutely no downside to this project,“ Powell stated. “It is good for the environment, good for Frederick County, good for Maryland, and good for us.”

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