BERLIN – A solar array under construction in Pocomoke City is poised to become the largest municipally owned system in the state while also reducing the town’s annual electricity costs by more than $37,000.
The project, which should be complete in December, consists of 6,150 solar panels that will produce 2.9 million kilowatt hours of power a year. Rockville-based Standard Solar is building the 2.1 megawatt system, which was financed by SunEdison.
“It’s exciting,” said Pocomoke City Manager Russ Blake, “and it’s a great opportunity for the city to save taxpayers money.”
Electricity produced by the system, which is being installed at Pocomoke City’s wastewater treatment facility, is expected to reduce the municipality’s electric bills by about 17 percent, or $37,000 a year, according to Blake. Several nonprofit organizations — including the Delmarva Discovery Center, MARVA Theater, Samaritan Shelter and the Worcester County Developmental Center — will also be tying in to the system. Their bills should be cut by about $15,000 a year.
Blake said the project came about after Standard Solar approached Pocomoke officials with a proposal to build the array at no cost to the town if the town provided the necessary land. The construction and equipment costs are covered by SunEdison. In return, SunEdison is eligible for federal tax credits, Blake said.
“Pocomoke City had no investment in this project except a long-term lease of the property,” Blake said.
That property — a 10-acre field adjacent to the town’s wastewater treatment facility — was ideal for a solar array because it was flat and treeless. Blake said it was originally purchased in case the treatment plant needed to be expanded. As that hasn’t happened, it was being rented to a farmer for agricultural use prior to the agreement with Standard Solar.
“We were fortunate we had the site,” Blake said. “It lent itself to this.”
Blake said he visited the project site Tuesday and was pleased to see nearly 3,000 solar panels already in place.
“It’ll be operational by Dec. 31 and most likely before that,” he said.
Blake said Pocomoke officials have been excited about the project’s potential from the start.
“It’s something we hadn’t been exposed to previously,” he said, “and we had to learn a lot about it. Everyone’s been really positive.”
Pocomoke City Mayor Bruce Morrison said he was proud to see Pocomoke in the forefront when it came to alternative energy.
“Our new solar system will not only help the town economically,” he said, “but it also speaks to our commitment to environmental sustainability and will serve as an educational opportunity for all of us to learn about the importance of renewable energy.”
Standard Solar officials said Pocomoke was one of “more and more” towns seeing the advantages of going solar.
“Pocomoke City calls itself ‘The Friendliest Town on the Eastern Shore’ and thanks to the foresight of city officials and this innovative solar project, it is well on its way to being known as the greenest town on the Eastern Shore,” said Tony Clifford, chief executive officer of Standard Solar.