The state prison in Hagerstown soon will be sharing its land with Maryland’s largest solar-energy facility.
Officials braved the heat Saturday to break ground on a 160-acre solar farm, located on the grounds of the Maryland Correctional Institution.
Once completed, the facility is expected to produce 20 megawatts of clean power — enough to power about 2,700 homes and the equivalent of taking 4,400 cars off the road each year, according to state officials.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) praised the project as part of a broader initiative to create jobs through renewable energy.
“When we choose to generate cleaner, greener energy here in Maryland we create Maryland jobs,” O’Malley said in a statement.
Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, or RPS, requires that 20 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2022.
O’Malley said 2,000 Marylanders have found jobs in the solar installation sector in the past few years. He expects an additional 10,000 jobs to be created in the industry during the next six years, he said.
The Hagerstown plant will produce an estimated 125 construction jobs and at least three full-time jobs when it opens in December.
Arizona-based First Solar leased the land from the state for 20 years, and is expected to pay Maryland nearly $460,000 in rent during that time. FirstEnergy Solutions of Akron, Ohio, will purchase the plant’s output for 20 years. FirstEnergy supplies power to 388,000 customers in western and central Maryland through an affiliate.
The project is expected to become one of the largest taxpayers in Washington County, said Alan Bernheimer, a spokesman for First Solar.
The project is expected to pay $2.4 million to the county during 20 years as part of a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement, according to data from the county board of commissioners.
“It’s really exciting,” said Tom Carlson, state campaign director for the nonprofit Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “In the past week, extreme heat and storms were a reminder that we need to reduce global warming pollution as soon as possible. Solar power is a shining example that we have the solutions at our fingertips.”
Solar power and offshore wind power are the state’s most abundant potential sources of clean power, Carlson said.
A major solar project could help build support for future projects, including offshore wind energy, he said. Offshore wind proposals have stalled in the General Assembly the past two years.