Maryland county transforms landfill into solar farm
Washington County, Md., will soon generate 25 megawatts of electricity through solar power, saving the county government and school system nearly $100,000 per year in energy costs and solidifying the county’s nickname of “Solar County.”
Through public-private partnerships with three solar energy producers, 130 acres of solar panels have been constructed on formerly empty landfill space. The county’s government and school district will purchase 14 megawatts of the 25 megawatts produced upon the project’s completion at the end of the year, according to a National Association of Counties press release.
County officials have set the goal of becoming one of the first counties in the nation to have 100 percent of its government facilities powered by renewable energy, according to Herald Mail Media.
"This is just a true public-partnership," county Commissioners President Terry L. Baker told the media group. “It's going to be a great revenue generator for Washington County just in the electrical savings for all of our facilities throughout the county. We're one of the first counties in the whole entire United States to be able to have our county operations' electricity provided by solar and green initiatives.”
Montgomery County, Md.-based EPG Solar presented the idea of using acres of Washington County’s landfill as an energy source more than three years ago. Spear Point Energy and Northern Energy later signed on to build out the solar field.
“When you own a landfill with landfill space, and people are looking for solar (projects), you get people knocking on your door,” Julie Pippel, director of the county’s division of environmental management, told NACO. “We had all of this land, we’re owning it and maintaining it. It wasn’t drawing in a tax base and we weren’t getting anything from it.”
Now, the formerly barren acres of land are raking in $375,000 annually in rent revenue, which is attributed to one penny per kilowatt-hour generated by the three energy companies, according to the release. Contractors now build and maintain the property, Pippel said.
The lucrative partnership is a benefit to Washington County and its partners, Robert Babcock, owner of EPG Solar, told NACO.
“Using landfill space is one of the greatest uses of county resources,” Babcock said. “I love working with municipal governments. They look for local solutions, and, in this case, it’s to generate their own power.”