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Solar farm could save town $1 million

(9/1) A proposed solar energy installation to be constructed at the Emmitsburg wastewater treatment plant site could save the town up to $1 million over 20 years.

But members of the town Board of Commissioners were not yet ready to commit to the project as of their September 3 meeting, expressing a need to see a proposed contract, review the cost effectiveness of the project and see a financial risk assessment.

Jack Copus, director of business development at Rockville-based Standard Solar, presented an overview of the project to the board at their September 3 meeting.

Standard Solar was appointed by the town as the project EPC (engineer-procurement-construct management) through a previously held competitive bidding process.

As the project EPC, Copus stated, "We helped developed this project as far as its current form. We will do the engineering, the procurement, the construction, also we’ll operate and maintain the array once it’s up and running."

"We have developed a 1.1 megawatt ground-mount which is going to be at Creamery Road at the existing wastewater treatment facility," Copus told the board. "It (the proposed solar facility) is estimated to produce about 1,400 megawatt hours on the first year, which is 1,425,000 kilowatt hours."

"The economics of this project for phase one, the way we’ve designed it and analyzing the current load for 20 meters throughout town, we’ll be able to provide electricity for about 86 percent of the town’s (municipal) needs," the project manager stated.

Copus said, "There is no up-front costs to the town, and the approximate savings is about $1 million over the 20 year term (except outside lawyer costs and replacement of some existing piping)."

However, Fred Ugast, president of US Photovoltaics, Inc., Frederick, said economic fluctuations in the power industry over the 20-year life of the contract could result in less savings.

UGI Utilities, Inc., a natural gas and electric utility serving 630,000 customers in 45 counties in Pennsylvania and 1 county in Maryland, according to the company, will own the solar production operation for 20 years as a third party.

The contract, currently being drafted, would require the town to purchase power from UGI for 20 years. In exchange, for producing the solar energy, the town would receive a reduced cost on their energy consumption, which represent as much as a $1 million savings over the life of the contract.

At the end of the 20-year contract, Emmitsburg could then "have the system removed at no cost, extend the terms in one year or five year increments, or purchase the system at fair market value," Copus stated.

The solar installation would be done in two phases, both intended to produce approximate 1.1 million megawatts. Only phase one, due to be online by the end of December, was discussed.

The board will continue to review the proposal at their next meeting.

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