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Havre de Grace government soon could be 100 percent solar-powered, mayor says

Havre de Grace's mayor wants to make his city's future brighter by having local government facilities 100 percent solar-powered by the end of 2016.

City representatives have been talking with SolarCity Corporation, of Beltsville, in hopes of having the company install and run a solar generating system near the Havre de Grace Community Center.

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That agreement, together with partnerships being explored with other solar energy providers, could save the city government about $125,000 annually or $2 million in 20 years, Mayor Bill Martin said during the City Council meeting Monday.

"We believe this is a prudent path for our city to take," Martin said, explaining he believes the plan can be implemented by December 2016.

"It has been my intention to make sure our city gets into the 21st century," he said. "Most people are guessing the cost of energy is only going to go up. I think this is a good thing. I signed several letters of intent to proceed with writing up contracts and, hopefully, the city of Havre de Grace will reap the benefits of being a forward-thinking city."

No agreements have been signed. City Finance Director George DeHority said Wednesday the plan is still at the preliminary stages.

Martin estimated the energy would cost the city about 7.9 to 8.1 cents per kilowatt hour.

SolarCity would provide up to 15 percent of the total power. DeHority said the city also has been speaking with Constellation Energy and other providers about their solar services.

SolarCity would install and maintain the solar system at the community center on Lagaret Lane, Lauren Harris, SolarCity project development manager, said during a presentation at Monday's council meeting.

There would be no upfront cost to the city, the rate would be locked in for 20 years and the city would see "immediate payback" as well as long-term benefits, Harris said.

The solar installation could be mounted on the ground, on rooftops or on carports or solar canopies, she said.

Martin said he could not think of "any other city that is 100 percent solar-powered." Only city property or fixtures would be solar-powered, not private property, he noted.

Solar power has been getting more interest from governments, as well as homeowners and business owners who have been putting solar panels on their roofs.

Earlier this year, the Harford County Council signed a solar power purchase agreement with Constellation Generation, which is considering building a solar generating facility on 200 acres in Perryman that could be the largest such project in the state. The electricity purchased by the county would be used to power its Sod Run Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is a short distance from the proposed Constellation project.

Wilmington, Del., was ranked fifth in a list of the top 16 U.S. cities for solar power availability, according to a Forbes.com article in May, which cited a report by Environment America, a Boston-based non-profit focused on energy and environmental policy issues. The rankings were based on solar capacity installed per capita. No Maryland cities made the list.

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