The installation of 2000 solar panels at the site of the former New Cut Landfill has begun. The panels, when operational at the end of November, will cover over two acres of the landfill cap.
The solar arrays are expected to produce approximately 90 percent of the energy needs for the adjacent Worthington Elementary School.
According to the Office of Public Information, the panels will be “located 6 feet above the ground and will be titled at 30 degree angles to track the sun.” They note that in addition to the long and short term cost savings associated with the project, the County “aims to increase awareness about the viable sources of renewable energy in our own communities.”
“Just as homeowners across Maryland look for ways to cut costs and save energy, we are doing the same by harnessing available and renewable energy resources to save taxpayers money by reducing utility costs in government facilities,” said County Executive Ulman. “Innovation and our strong partnership with the school system have enabled Howard County to lead the way in environmental sustainability.”
The Howard County Department of Public Works and a partner, the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, began working on the idea in 2007. Mark DeLuca, Deputy Director of Public Works, explains that “Generally, the idea was to take advantage of underused landfill area and repurpose it to produce clean (green) energy like solar. With the help of a Project Sunburst Grant from the Maryland Energy Administration, we were able to move the project forward.”
Last year Howard County was awarded a $462,000 Project Sunburst grant from the Maryland Energy Administration for this very project. Project Sunburst, which is administered by the Maryland Energy Administration, has funded the installation of renewable energy systems on more than 30 public buildings throughout the state.
Seventeen government entities have received funding under the program, which, according to the information provided, offered grants at a rate of $1,000 per kilowatt (kW) on photovoltaic systems (PV) installed on public buildings.
DeLuca noted that with a requirement for county buildings over 10,000 square feet to be LEED certified, there will be more opportunities to use solar energy.
Currently, solar arrays provide a portion of the energy at the new Robinson Nature Center and the East Columbia Library. However, the New Cut Landfill Solar project represents the largest Howard County solar project thus far.
SunEdison, LLC of Beltsville designed the system. Fagen Inc. is the general contractor installing the panels.