A solar farm in Washington County could begin providing energy credits to Potomac Edison customers in Maryland's service area by the end of August.
Conductive Power, a New York-based developer, completed construction this week on Rockdale Solar, a 20-acre solar farm in Williamsport, clearing the subscription service company, Common Energy, to schedule final inspections with Potomac Edison, said Common Energy CEO Richard Keiser. While the ultimate decision when to integrate the 2.6-megawatt solar farm into Potomac Edison's power grid is up to the utility, Keiser was confident this week's construction milestone will soon mean Potomac Edison customers in Maryland — including Frederick County residents — will be among the first in the state to benefit from access to clean energy from a community solar project.
Aaron Ruegg, a FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman speaking on behalf of Potomac Edison, did not provide an exact timeline for the Rockdale project to be integrated into the utility's grid.
"Right now, the detail I have is that we still have some additional upgrade work to do on our end to the system before it can actually go into service," Ruegg said when reached for comment Wednesday.
The Williamsport farm is part of Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program, a program funded by the state's Public Service Commission aimed at making clean solar energy more available to Maryland residents. Previously, residents interested in solar energy would need to not only own their own homes but also have the ability to finance the installation of solar equipment in order to benefit, whereas now, with community solar projects, clean energy can be outsourced from off-site arrays and made available to homeowners and renters alike.
With a 2.6-megawatt capacity, the approximately 4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity that will be produced annually by the Rockdale farm will be enough to supply power to about 400 homes a year, Keiser said.
"In terms of the environmental impact, the project will prevent approximately 5.3 million pounds of carbon emission each year from going into the environment," Keiser said, adding that the array will likely remain operable for between 20 and 30 years. "Overall, we expect the project to prevent over 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the environment during its operating lifetime, so it really benefits the entire community through lower pollution."
Simultaneous with the completion of the project, Common Energy also announced this week that it had just signed up 1.2 megawatts' worth of subscribers, meaning about 46 percent of the project's total capacity was already spoken for. As of Tuesday, about 200 residential subscriptions remained, Keiser said.
Under the pilot program, residents purchase a portion of their electricity from a community solar array like the Rockdale Solar project and credit that power to their home bills. Based on Common Energy's calculations, residents could receive clean energy credits between $10 and $25 a month, Keiser said.
"These projects are a great thing to be a part of, there is literally no downside. People can get started and sign up online, it costs nothing and it immediately saves people money, so it's good for the environment and good for people's wallets," Keiser said.
Aside from being one of the first projects announced under the Community Solar Pilot Program, Rockdale Solar was just the second community solar project to go into service in Potomac Edison’s Maryland service area, according to Ruegg. A total of 14 similar projects were also in various stages of planning as of Wednesday, Ruegg said.
Meanwhile, Common Energy was in talks with not only Potomac Edison but also Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric to initiate five more community solar projects across the rest of the state, Keiser said.