By Rande Davis
On June 2, Town of Poolesville officials celebrated the recent completion of the new solar array system at the Poolesville wastewater treatment plant on Fisher Avenue. Last year, the town entered into a twenty-year agreement with UGI Corporation, which paid the $2.7 million cost of installing the 4,480 solar panels.
In hosting the event, Commissioner Jim Brown talked about the difficulty of the more-than-two-year process of exploration and negotiation, and congratulated his fellow commissioners and town manager Wade Yost “for grinding it out to the end.” Brown also acknowledged former commissioner Eddie Kuhlman and credited him with first coming up with the idea to build the solar array.
The project was developed through a public-private partnership between Poolesville, Standard Solar, Inc., and energy provider, UGI Corporation. The energy-generating system promises to yield both reduced energy costs for the town and innovative educational opportunities for local students studying environmental science. “Poolesville is proud to be moving forward on the front of renewable energy,” said Brown. “Our new solar array is not only a source of energy independence, but it also speaks to our commitment to environmental sustainability and to providing opportunities to educate our next generation on the importance of renewable energy sources.”
State and county leaders joined the town commissioners at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to symbolically bring on board the electrical energy system. “The Town of Poolesville is among a select few forward-thinking municipalities in Maryland and throughout the U.S. that are taking steps toward a more sustainable future,” said Tony Clifford, CEO of Standard Solar. “We commend Poolesville for being proactive in demonstrating the value and benefits of solar power to its residents and future leaders.” He also noted that this is “a win, win, win for the town economically, ecologically, and educationally.” Poolesville is the only municipality in Montgomery County—and one of the first three municipalities in Maryland—with its own fully-operational source of renewable solar energy.
County Executive Ike Leggett noted the descriptive use of the term “grinding it out,” stating, “Poolesville is to be congratulated for going through the hard, costly, and time-consuming process and grinding it out through a difficult process. This experience is a model to other communities in the county and state and marks this as a defining moment for the town and county, and through the experience here in Poolesville, we can find a simpler process for the future.”
State Senator Brian Feldman spoke of the pride of having this exemplary project come from Poolesville. “I love the fact that this comes from Montgomery County and that the town is out front in leading in renewable energy.” He also noted that Kuhlman alerted him to state restrictions that limited the usage of the system and promised to look into the matter so that the Poolesville project can become a pilot program to help remove some of those restrictions.
Also on hand to share in the celebration was county councilman Roger Berliner. He told the crowd, “What I love about being here at this moment is that Poolesville has a unique character and wonderful history, but at the same time you are able to achieve this kind of progressive end result. You are to be congratulated for honoring who you are and the core of yourself but still embracing the future in this way.”
Chuck Miller of UGI, the Pennsylvania gas utility that financed the project, noted that he was excited and proud to partner with this exceptional town for the next twenty years.
Poolesville will still be served by Potomac Edison, but the solar panels will generate electricity to offset energy costs for the town hall, wastewater plant, and various water pump facilities. According to Poolesville officials, the new energy source is projected to save the town up to $30,000 in its first year of operation.
Poolesville’s solar array project was made possible, in part, by the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA), which has created incentives and limited upfront costs for renewable energy systems through Solar Power Purchase Agreements (SPPA). These efforts were implemented in order to help the State of Maryland realize its Renewable Portfolio Standard goal of twenty percent renewable energy generation by 2022.