Energy Initiatives | News
Maryland District Part of 1,600 MWh Aggregate County Solar Project
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Two schools in a small district in Maryland will be able to take advantage of a new solar installation that will also produce electricity for three other entities in the community. Kent County Public Schools was invited by the county itself to participate in the project, which will provide an estimated 1,600 megawatt hours of electricity for a 290-student elementary school (where the array is located), a 650-student high school, a public radio antenna, a community center, and a public works facility.
Kent County and the Board of Education will purchase the electricity generated by the system under a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with Washington Gas Energy Services, a mid-Atlantic utility. The energy company teamed up with Standard Solar to pitch the project to the county. Standard performed the installation, which will be owned and operated by the utility.
According to county documents, two other partnerships also vied for the work, but Washington Gas was chosen for several reasons: The alliance had already undertaken a large number of solar projects in the state compared to the other vendors. The county decided that working with a utility would add a measure of financial security to the project since Washington Gas would retain the energy credits produced without the county having to dispose of them in a "volatile market." The alliance's proposed PPA electric rate was the most attractive of the three bidders. The two companies had done extensive research into energy usage patterns and the existing electrical infrastructure leading to the campus where the array would be located. And Standard Solar was represented by a county resident.
The panels are expected to stay in place for 20 years, after which the county can choose to either purchase them or request their removal.
According to a statement, this is the first public sector solar system in the state to benefit from a new law that allows for aggregate, net-metering, whereby one solar system can serve multiple customers.
Along with supplying solar electricity, the partnership will also put on educational programs for high school students about the generation and use of solar energy.
"Kent County is proud to lead the way when it comes to adopting solar projects, and the Worton project is the first of several projects underway in Kent County helping us move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy while saving money on our electric bills," said County Commissioner Ronald Fithian. "We are especially pleased to know the Board of Education will also use this as a learning opportunity for its students."
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.