SMECO Announces Second Solar Project

April 17, 2014

SMECOSouthern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) has entered into a power purchase agreement with an affiliate of juwi solar Inc. (JSI) to develop, design and construct the 10.0-megawatt (MW) Rockfish Solar facility. JSI will construct and operate the facility through a wholly-owned subsidiary, and SMECO will purchase all generated energy, capacity, and solar renewable energy credits for the next 20 years.

Pending approval from the Maryland Public Service Commission and local permitting, the solar farm is planned to be a 10-MW solar photovoltaic facility to be located on 80 acres in Charles County. JSI plans to employ the use of single axis tracking technology, and preliminary designs call for approximately 41,000 modules of solar panels. The project is scheduled to reach full commercial operation as early as the end of this year and is expected to generate roughly 21,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) during its first year of operation: enough to power about 1,300 homes annually. An average SMECO household uses 1,300 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a month and 15,600 kWh per year.

SMECO worked with the National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO) to develop a request for proposals and evaluated about 30 submissions before selecting JSI. JSI is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. According to Austin J. Slater, Jr., SMECO’s president and CEO, “By working with NRCO and JSI, we are developing a project that will provide renewable energy right here in our service area, helping us to meet our regulatory requirements and to avoid costly transmission fees.” He added, “Our customer-members will be glad to know that the cost of the energy provided by this solar project is very reasonable and will have a positive effect on customer rates.”

“We are incredibly excited to be working with SMECO and NRCO to provide clean, reliable solar power to SMECO customers in a cost-effective manner,” said Michael Martin, CEO of JSI. “We also eagerly anticipate breaking ground and completing our first utility-scale solar project in the state of Maryland.”

This project is the second solar project and fourth renewable project that NRCO has facilitated for SMECO. SMECO developed a 5.5-MW solar farm in Hughesville which has produced more than 10 million kWh since November 2012. The new solar project is expected to produce nearly twice as much energy as the Hughesville facility. SMECO also purchases the energy and environmental attributes of two wind projects located in Pennsylvania.

Purchasing solar energy is one way SMECO works to fulfill its renewable portfolio obligation, as required by the state, at the lowest costs to its members. Utilities are obligated to purchase .5 percent of their load from solar energy resources in 2015; that percentage increases each year until reaching two percent in 2020. Utilities that don’t purchase the required amount of solar energy must pay a penalty.