Frederick County is beginning to realize the benefits of its project to build solar power arrays on vacant land at the county landfill, and we are excited at the glimpse of the future being offered here.

The solar array, which was dedicated this month, was built on just 14 acres at the landfill, but it can generate almost 2 megawatts of power a day. That will supply nearly 20 percent of the county’s general building power needs.

Such well-known county buildings as Winchester Hall and the C. Burr Artz Public Library will now get clean power from the sun. So will the libraries in Urbana and Emmitsburg and the Frederick Senior Center.

At the dedication ceremony, County Executive Jan Gardner also noted that the array will help power charging stations for the county’s electric TransIT buses, with 10 charging bays for five electric buses, an additional benefit toward reducing the county’s carbon footprint.

Earlier this year, the county signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Tesla, the company best known for building electric cars. The county will pay 6.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, which Gardner said could save $250,000 to $500,000 over 20 years.

That is not a great deal of money, but the real significance is in the switch from carbon-based power to clean power. That is what makes this project so appealing and exciting.

The project confirms that our county government and our community recognize the need to make changes in our world to combat man-made climate change. There is no single answer to combating climate change. We must all do our part, and it will take millions of small steps, many at the local level.

The Washington Post reported this past week that

major areas across the United States are nearing or have already crossed the significant threshold of a 2-degree Celsius increase in average temperatures.

Scientists have warned for several years that if the Earth’s temperature rises by 2 degrees Celsius, it will trigger catastrophic changes.

The Trump administration, which rejects the validity of man-made climate change science, will be of no help. In the absence of a national effort, state and local governments, as well as individual citizens, must get to work now.

Here is how the Frederick County project will work:

Mike Marschner, the deputy chief administrative officer managing the project, explained that Tesla did not build electric lines from the landfill to the various county buildings. Rather, the array will use virtual net metering, where Potomac Edison will take from the site onto the

local power grid.

“The idea is you can build large-scale facilities through virtual net metering [and] you can provide that solar

power to buildings,” Marschner said. “So you put it on the grid here, take it off elsewhere.”

We believe that this is just the first of many projects the county might undertake to move toward clean power.

We can envision a day when solar arrays are built above many county parking lots, including park-and-ride lots along the freeways. New technology is coming that will enable the county to efficiently install panels above the parking spaces, while continuing to park cars below.

County buildings, including schools, could have their own solar panels on their roofs generating power. The

solar power industry is coming up with new ideas all the time.

If local and state governments are aggressive, we might yet slow the speed of climate change, and save our planet.

(8) comments

LeonardKeepers

solar energy might be a good thing but it also causes radio frequency interference.so far there is no federal communications regulations pertaining to stopping RFI from solar systems.

timothygaydos

Some great comments so far and yes the article is a little short on substance regarding how much was spent to save over 20 years maybe $200K - 500K???? Solar could yield some real energy in the near term when we keep refining how we use it off the grid but in the mean time need to use carbon fuels to make the $$$$ to allow for more research...

FCPS-Principal

This will be an important facility when it comes time to "prove" Maryland gets half its power from solar and wind come 2030. The "proof" will be an incomprehendable, enormous shell game with some elements of reality like this facility. Virtual metering will also play a role, as claims about it are impossible to disprove. So will making general claims about costs without any backup.

ma23464

Agreed. This is an awful lot of fanfare for a small solar installation. I wonder why it’s inly 14 acres. They certainly have more land then that available on the old landfill site.



While these projects are important to advance the technology, solar is not economically viable. It takes tax credits to pay for it, and in this case I imagine they will go to Tesla. Now if we could factor in the environmental cost of possibly avoiding more carbon release into the atmosphere and slowing the warming trend it may be worth it.



The only real soultions today for cheap clean power are nuclear and hydroelectric. But society is not ready to deal with the environmental risks of those either.

MD1756

Solar is economically viable when you consider the true costs of fossil fuel combustion

see Forbes costs on price alone: https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2018/01/13/renewable-energy-cost-effective-fossil-fuels-2020/#1f3b2b8c4ff2

see the Union of Concerned Scientists for true costs (which include externalized costs): https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/hidden-cost-of-fossils

see also skepticalscience.com for true costs: https://skepticalscience.com/renewable-energy-is-too-expensive.htm

It is time to stop direct and indirect subsidies of fossil fuels. Just wait until cities need to implement expensive countermeasures to try to prevent themselves from going underwater and we didn't act to try to mitigate the damage. Additionally those using fossil fuels as a major source for energy generation are not controlling all of their other emissions only a portion of it while the rest contaminates property, water or air that they do not own.

MD1756

I assume like people who use solar city there are options with little or no payment, you just get a reduced cost for your electricity. If true, there is no payback period since no money was invested up front. You only lose the opportunity to negotiate during the 20 years so there is a risk if electric prices go below 6.6 cents/kWh during that period (I am assuming the 6.6 cents quoted is the total kWh cost (generation, transmission and distribution otherwise it is a poor deal given the current cost of generation is 5.612 cents/kWh).

DickD

Jan is doing a great job and solar is the way to go. ..But this editorial is misleading. Using net metering you don't put electricity on one place and take it off at any specific place. .What you do is put electricity on the grid at the Solar site and take off an equivalent amount at the place that needs electricity. That means that the electricity used could be coming from any generating source. It does lower the amount of dirty energy used and that's good.



The only way to use specific energy is to go off the grid. Now that could be coming, in the future. . Right now they are looking at ways to use solar to make hydrogen and use the hydrogen in fuel cells. If they can be successful, there may be all the energy anyone wants without the grid. Of course, it will still require solar cells, place to store liquid hydrogen and fuel cells. What's possible will be done.

TomWheatley

Agreed. I would like to see the cost of the solar installation, the current (no pun intended) KwH cost the taxpayers are paying, and the math worked out to when a ROI is expected. As there are no subsidies akin to what an individual might get, it would give us a reasonable comparison.



That said, I agree with the use of solar, however, in it's right place. On top of good agricultural soil: no. On a landfill:yes. However, somewhere sunnier than Maryland still makes better sense to me for these large scale installations.

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