Washington College has partnered with Sol Systems to bring greener energy to campus.
Known as Blue Star Solar, the solar development project will consist of solar modules attached to single axis trackers that cover approximately 50 acres of industrial-zoned land in Massey, M.D., an unincorporated part of Kent County 15 miles from WC.
“The project is a series of three power purchase agreements (PPAs) for six megawatts of electricity. Each PPA is virtual net metered to a single meter on campus, so it will look like it is on our campus,” Director of Sustainability Greg Farley said.
Virtual net metering is a “bill crediting system that refers to when solar is not used onsite,” according to energysage.com.
Instead, energy is “externally installed and shared among subscribers.”
Blue Star uses the aggregated net metering rules allowed for Maryland utilities. The kilowatt-hours produced by the Blue Star Solar generator will be subtracted from the energy used on campus, which will reduce the electric bills WC receives from Delmarva Power and Light.
According to Mark Cooper, project lead, Blue Star is a photovoltaic generator with a power rating of 6 megawatts Alternating Current or 7.8 megawatts Direct Current.
This project was initiated under a prior president of the College, but Farley has stewarded it over the past six months.
“We are not buying green electricity,” Farley said. “The solar array pushes electrons to the grid, then our supply comes from the development firm’s grid we are buying from.”
In other words, the energy that will supply WC with power comes from a specific nearby grid rather than a faraway source.
As part of the state of Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio, established in 2004, there is a push for 25 percent renewable energy by 2020.
According to Farley, Maryland law only allows up to a certain size grid to be built off-site, while still appear to be on campus rather than 15 miles away.
“This is to encourage businesses that don’t have the footprint for meaningful meter to pursue the standard in a way that was economically beneficial,” Farley said.
Sol Systems, the project developer, owns the project and has taken care of all permitting to obtain the rights to build it.
“We’ve worked with WC to sign an agreement to sell them the power produced by the generator,” Cooper said. “We’ve also worked with the local land owner to obtain a lease to use the land to build the project and worked with an investor to obtain long term funding.”
As a function of the PPA, Sol Systems will keep the solar renewable credit, then someone else in a different location will claim that renewable credit.
“This is part of the strategy to incentivize renewable energy in this region,” Farley said.
Four years ago, One Energy Renewables, another solar development company, began looking for good sites to build photovoltaic generators in Maryland.
According to Cooper, they found this site in Massey, negotiated a lease option with the land owner, and began the permitting process. Sol Systems acquired Blue Star Solar from One Energy in 2017.
Separately, around three years ago, the College put out a request for a green energy contract.
“After making a bid and intense negotiation, Sol Systems was awarded that energy supply contact and purchased the Blue Star Project from One Energy,” Cooper said.
Project Blue Star is contracted with WC for 25 years.
“This is part of the larger sustainability strategy. One of our principal goals is to find carbon reductions and dollar savings from changes in the energy portfolio,” Farley said.