July 26, 2017

Solar Facility Coming to La Plata

solar facility

A new solar facility is about to be built in La Plata, through an agreement between Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and Origis Energy USA.

A new Ripley Solar 27.5 MWAC facility will be constructed on Ripley Road in La Plata. Origis Energy will develop the facility, which is expected to reach full commercial operation by about mid-2019. SMECO will buy all energy generated at the facility, as well as capacity and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) for the next 25 years, which will help the electric co-op fulfill its state-mandated renewable portfolio obligation at the lowest cost to its members.

The facility is awaiting approval from the Maryland Public Service Commission and local permitting. When those steps are complete, the solar facility will be on 300 acres in Charles County. The preliminary design calls for the use of single axis tracking technology and about 86,000 thin film solar panel modules. A short transmission line will be built from the solar power site to the nearest substation. The project will create about 150 jobs during construction, which is expected to start in early 2019.

The National Renewables Cooperative Organization helped SMECO to develop a request for proposals. SMECO evaluated about 20 submissions before choosing Origis Energy.

“Ripley Solar is the third solar project that NRCO has facilitated for SMECO, and their expertise has been invaluable,” said Austin J. Slater Jr., SMECO’s president and CEO. “Developing solar projects right here in our service area gives us a couple of advantages. Not only are we able to procure renewable energy to help meet state requirements, but we are also able to avoid costly transmission fees.

“We’re looking forward to partnering with Origis Energy on Ripley Solar. The amount of solar energy this project will produce nearly doubles SMECO’s current solar capacity.”

Ripley Solar will generate about 56,500 megawatt-hours (MWh) during its first year of operation, enough to provide power to about 3,600 homes each year. An average SMECO household uses 1,300 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a month and 15,600 kWh per year.

“By purchasing more renewable energy, SMECO is demonstrating environmental leadership, sustainable energy generation responsibility and facilitating grid reliability,” said Guy Vanderhaegen, CEO and president of Origis Energy. “We are most pleased to help SMECO provide its customers with clean, solar generated energy for many years to come.”

Buying solar energy is one of the ways SMECO is working to fulfill its renewable portfolio obligation, as required by the state, at the lowest costs to members. Utilities must purchase 1.15 percent of their load from solar energy resources in 2017; that percentage increases each year until reaching 2.5 percent by 2020. Utilities that don’t purchase the required amount of solar energy will be required to pay a penalty.

To learn more about SMECO, visit its Leader member page.

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