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Constellation could build state's largest solar farm in Perryman

Constellation Energy has plans to build a solar farm in Perryman that could become the largest such installation in Maryland.
Constellation Energy has plans to build a solar farm in Perryman that could become the largest such installation in Maryland. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Constellation Energy has plans to build a solar farm in Perryman that could become the largest such installation in Maryland, Harford County and Constellation officials said.

The project, proposed for a 200-acre site next to Constellation's generation station between Perryman and Chelsea roads, could generate as much as 20 megawatts of energy, enough to power the equivalent of 2,000 homes, a Constellation spokesperson said.

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The size of the solar array has yet to be been determined, as Constellation must figure out the return on its investment, warned Harford County Economic Development Director Jim Richardson.

A review of the site plan for the proposed solar farm by the county Development Advisory Committee, or DAC, is scheduled for Dec. 17 at 9 a.m. in Bel Air.

"We are not sure how large they are going to make it at this point in time, but we are hoping they will put in a pretty massive installation," Richardson said. "I just think it's a good footprint, because I think it will be the largest solar installation in the state of Maryland."

Richardson said Tuesday the project could mean energy savings for local government and even Aberdeen Proving Ground, which has been part of discussions for the proposal and is near the site.

The county could also reap significant additional tax benefits from what is already far and away its largest taxpayer.

The county has been encouraging Constellation to build the Perryman solar plant for several months, Richardson said, adding that the project was pushed up for the DAC review, as permitted under a fast-tracking process for projects with major economic impact.

Shane Grimm, who is handling the project for the county Department of Planning and Zoning, said Tuesday he had not reviewed it yet. He did not know of any other stand-alone solar farms in the county, however.

Constellation has already applied to the Maryland Public Service Commission for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to build the project, company spokesperson Kelly Biemer said.

Richardson said Constellation officials originally came to his office to talk about potential customers in the Perryman area.

"We are trying to encourage them to maximize the site as much as possible and to reduce our carbon footprint," he explained. "The county is certainly very much in favor of it."

Because of the proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground and transmission lines, "it's perfectly located," Richardson said. "Solar energy is much better if you can be closer to the end user."

The project would rival Constellation's most recent large-scale solar plant, which put a 16.1-megawatt, $50 million installation on land leased from Mount St. Mary's University, in Emmitsburg, in 2012.

The Perryman proposal is part of Exelon's merger commitments when it merged with Constellation in 2012, Biemer said. If built, Constellation would build and operate the solar arrays, she said.

"The proposed clean energy project is part of Exelon's commitment to investing in clean energy resources in Maryland," Biemer wrote in a follow-up email. "Exelon is by far the state's largest producer of carbon-free energy, and we support efforts to introduce additional renewable energy resources across the state and region."

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"Constellation developed the state's first wind energy facility, and our 16.1 megawatt solar facility for the state of Maryland, which is currently one of Maryland's largest," she continued.

"Though no formal decision has been made yet about construction of new projects at the Perryman facility, we continue to evaluate additional renewable generation projects that will help Maryland meet its clean energy goals," Biemer said.

Richardson said the project will "unfortunately" not create many jobs, other than during construction; however, it would offer opportunities for local businesses that want to be green.

The solar farm would be the latest energy investment at the company's Perryman complex.

In July, Exelon broke ground on two 60-megawatt natural gas generating units at the station.

That $120 million project, expected to be completed in June 2015, will provide power to Harford and other areas in the region during peak demand times, according to Constellation.

Originally developed in the mid-1990s, Perryman Station has four existing oil-fired combustion turbines and a fifth fired by natural gas. Those are also used to supply power during peak demand periods.

Exelon, which includes Constellation and BGE, is in the process of acquiring Pepco Holdings, whose Delmarva Power subsidiary serves northeastern Harford County.

The county receives more than $13 million annually in business property taxes from those entities, according to its most recent comprehensive annual financial report.

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