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Perryman solar farm may save Harford at least $1 million in energy costs

The solar farm proposed for Perryman could save Harford County upward of $1 million in energy bills, the administration told the County Council.

"We like this project because the sun will actually be contributing to help us clean the [Chesapeake] Bay," Joel Caudill, deputy director for the county's water and sewer division, told the council during a public hearing on a proposed 20-year agreement with Constellation Generation for the project.

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He explained the massive solar array, which could become the largest in the state and power the equivalent of 2,000 homes, would generate energy for the county's Sod Run Wastewater Treatment Plant, thus helping meet environmental requirements to remove nutrients from the bay.

The 20-year agreement would cost $0.07 per kilowatt hour and is subject to a 1.5 percent annual increase, but would nevertheless save the county anywhere from $142,000 to $989,000 over the term of the agreement.

"This project brings needed generation capacity to the region," Noel Chesser, a senior energy consultant with EnerNOC, told the council.

The solar purchase agreement would provide 28 percent of electric energy needed for Sod Run, Caudill said.

The county, which buys power through a cooperative agreement under the Baltimore Regional Cooperative Purchasing Committee, pays $0.0774 per kilowatt-hour for Sod Run, for a total of roughly $0.086 per kilowatt-hour after BGE distribution costs and taxes, Caudill said.

The agreement states the net cost to the county must not be more than current power costs, he said.

He expected the solar facility to be operational by January 2016 and lower the county's costs for power generation within the first year.

Constellation, which is owned by Exelon, would build, own and maintain the facility, he said. The county would simply buy the power.

Besides offering financial savings, the project also uses environmentally-friendly energy and supports investment in Harford's economy, as the BGE/Exelon energy corporation is one of the county's top taxpayers.

"It's a win-win-win," Caudill said.

Councilman Chad Shrodes noted the project's footprint is "amazingly large" compared to surrounding sites. The farm would sit on 200 acres next to Constellation's existing generation station between Perryman and Chelsea roads.

"It takes a lot of land to do solar, so fortunately for Constellation, they have the land here," Caudill replied.

Councilman Curtis Beulah asked about the administration's confidence that the agreement would actually produce savings in the future despite inflation. The presentation Tuesday showed an estimate of $34,000 in savings expected in the first year of the agreement.

Chesser conceded "anything is possible" but said the estimates were very conservative and noted shale production has continued to drive down the cost of power.

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