Counties throughout the Eastern Shore of Maryland are investing in solar at an increasing rate. Much of this investment has come about as a result of the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which was put in place by Governor Martin O’Malley back in 2006. The mandate calls for 20 percent of Maryland’s energy to be produced from renewable sources by 2022. The spur in solar investment has also arisen as a result of the potential budget savings through reducing energy costs. With the mandate window closing, counties with tight budgets throughout the shore have begun planning and construction for several renewable energy projects.
One of these projects is a solar power facility being constructed in Wicomico County. The project involves the installation of 11,000 solar panels and has been touted to have the potential to reduce the county’s energy costs by at least 50 percent—saving Wicomico nearly $160,000 annually. Wicomico County Administrator Wayne Strausburg is adamant about the need for the project stating, “We’re not being diligent if we’re relying on old technology to carry us into the future.” The project involves a contract with Solar City for installation and maintenance costs that will also set the price for the solar energy generated from the panels at 4.5 cents a kilowatt for the next 20 years. The ability to lock in an energy price for such a long period of time will be very beneficial to the County’s budget committee as they attempt to forecast the county’s financial needs each year.
If projects like this continue to be successful in the coming years there will likely be an even more rapid expansion of solar energy throughout the Eastern Shore as county governments look for energy solutions that will increase budget savings without risking the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its estuaries.
MDV-SEIA Solar Fellow