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Solar ‘phase II’ to be completed June

Teresa Grable

(12/27) The work on phase II of the solar power generation facility located on Creamery Road is slated to begin in early 2015 with completion expected in June. This will coincide with the completion of the new wastewater treatment plant currently under construction.

When completed, the full solar farm will occupy approximately 20 acres and will produce 2.3 megawatts of power per day. Town Manager, David Haller, said this is "good usage of a property made available to us by the construction of the new sewer plant."

Phase I of the solar farm supplies 1.1 megawatt of power, sufficient for all of the town’s current power needs. The estimated savings after the first year of operation is approximately $15,000. Phase II will provide an additional 1.2 megawatts, sufficient to meet the electrical needs of the new wastewater treatment plant.

While the town owns the land upon which the solar farm was built, the actual solar farm itself is owned and operated by UGI Utilities Inc., a natural gas and electric utility. The town has a 20-year commitment to purchase power from the solar farm at a specific rate per kilowatt/hour. Over the 20 years, UGI can increase the price it is charging the town for power by 2% every year. At the end of the 20 years, the town has 3 options: walk away, buy the solar production operation from UGI, or allow UGI to continue to manage the solar farm operations and continue to buy power under the current arrangement.

Unlike home solar systems where the solar panels are hooked directly to home electrical system, where one can even reverses one’s electrical meter, and where the final bill only represents what was purchased from the grid, the new solar farm is hooked directly to Potomac Edison’s electric grid, as is the town. The town independently draws off of the grid and the solar farm provides electricity independently to the grid.

Potomac Edison acts as an intermediary between the town and UGI to facilitate the transmission of electricity and payments, e.g. it charges the town for its electrical use per the agreed upon electrical rate with UGI, and upon payment, provides payment to UGI for the power it supplied to the grid.

Over the life of the 20-year contract, the town is hoping to save approximately $1.5 million as a result of purchasing its power from the solar farm as opposed to other electrical providers offered by Potomac Edison.

Mayor Don Briggs said, "It's exciting to see Emmitsburg leading the way in the use of renewable energy. That observation is not mine alone, but also of the Sustainable Maryland office. We are setting an example, by positioning ourselves for the future, for other levels of government to follow. I pushed for the solar project because it is the right and responsible thing to do. Fiscally, our solar energy production results in a lower cost of government and savings that can be passed on to residents."

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