HAMPSTEAD — Town officials on Friday celebrated the completion of a new pump house and solar array on Upper Forde Lane, which will allow the town to restore water more quickly after a power outage and save the town tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs.
The pump house is the first in the town to include automatic generator back-up power. Previously, in the event of a power outage or other emergency, they were reliant on Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to connect water pumps to a generator. This could take several hours. With the automatic back-up power, it can be done almost instantaneously.
"This is a long time coming and much needed for our town," Mayor Christopher Nevin said at the ceremony.
The pump house was a combined private and public venture between the town and the developer responsible for Oakmont Overlook. Overall, the project cost approximately $300,000.
Housed in a 1,200-square-foot building on the 6-acre property that also includes the solar array, the pump house has a capacity of 225 gallons per minute.
Richard Armacost, foreman of the Department of Public Works, said technology allows the pump house to be "almost self-sufficient." Public works employees can access the controls from a cellphone, and he said the pumps are able to automatically dial out an alert in the event that something goes wrong.
The developer performed the site work, installed the 8-inch water line to the pump house, constructed the shell of the building and supplied the three-phase electric to the site. The town installed all of the pumps in the wells, SCADA equipment, inside plumbing and electrical controls.
The solar array, consisting of 1,620 panels spread over 3 acres, will allow the town to save approximately $50,000 per year in energy costs.
The 500-kilowatt solar power system is expected to produce more than 630,000 kilowatt hours within the first year of operation alone, according to project manager Christy Collins.
The project was spearheaded by Councilman Wayne Thomas, who pursued the project after attending a summer conference for the Maryland Municipal League.
He said the solar project cost less than $7,000 — mostly for clearing land — and therefore should pay for itself in a matter of months.
"This wouldn't have gotten done without him," Councilman David Unglesbee said.
More data on energy cost savings will be available once the array has been operational for a longer period of time.
"Obviously there are a lot of factors that will determine our overall savings," Collins said. "The array has only been live for a couple weeks. We are hoping to see the savings that were illustrated to us during the planning stages of this project in the near future."
The town is able to achieve savings through a Solar Power Purchase Agreement, meaning a third-party developer installed the panels on the town-owned land and will sell the energy produced by the panels to the town for less than they would pay to a utility.
The project is part of the town's commitment to the environment, which is reflected in their membership in two Maryland sustainability initiatives. In March 2016, Hampstead became a Maryland Sustainable Community. This program offers a large number of resources that "support holistic strategies for community development, revitalization and sustainability," according to the program's website.
Hampstead officials are currently working toward certification with Sustainable Maryland, a certification program for municipalities in Maryland that want to go green, save money and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. They are the first municipality in Carroll to seek this certification.
"Cost savings is definitely a benefit and one that residents will most likely relate to and appreciate, but I think they should also be excited about this development on a higher level," Collins said. "I hope that our residents are proud that we are trying to take the steps necessary to reduce the town's carbon footprint."
Councilman James Roark said this was a great step into the future for Hampstead.
"Being environmentally friendly and cutting costs, it is a two-fold win for the town," Roark said. "We hope to do more in the future."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the street where the pump house and solar array is located.