FORT WASHINGTON — Nautilus Solar Energy will be installing a 6.6-megawatt community solar project in Prince George’s County, one of the largest of its kind, to be up a running by March 2019.
The project will contain four separate solar projects installed on the same landfill in Prince George’s County off of the intersection of Indian Head Highway and Palmer Road. With 6.6 megawatts, it will have enough energy to power 800 homes. Because it is community solar, it will market to the general public in the Pepco service territory.
“One of the things we’re always trying to do is trying to find property that’s large enough to be able to locate a system and doesn’t have other higher use,” said CEO Jim Rice.
Nautilus Solar Energy, based in New Jersey, is a national solar acquisition, development and asset management company and was founded in 2006. Their focus is on acquiring, developing, executing and managing distributed and utility-scale generation solar projects and over the last 10 years the company has invested in hundreds of megawatts of solar projects and provides asset management services to distributed, community solar and utility projects throughout North America.
They acquired the project from co-developers Summit Ridge Energy LLC and SynerGen LLC, both developers and financiers of community solar power plants across the United States.
“We were thrilled to work with our co-development partner Summit Ridge Energy on this landmark community solar portfolio on a unique brownfield site,” said SynerGen Solar LLC CEO Hillel Halberstam. “The portfolio reclaims an otherwise unusable landfill site, utilizing it for the benefit of the county and its residents, as well as all other Pepco ratepayers in Maryland.”
The process of creating the community solar project began in early 2017 around the time of establishment of Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program.
“It started because there was legislation in 2015 and then the commission had to establish regulations and then utilities now have interconnection cues,” said Tori Leonard, communications director for the Maryland Public Service Commission. “The regulations were adopted two years ago.”
The program will allow customers to save money on their electric bills, encourage private investment in Maryland’s solar industry, diversify the state’s energy resources to meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act goals as well as allow Marylanders to benefit from more clean energy options.
“The goal is to sort of open solar energy for communities that might not otherwise have access to it like people who rent or live in apartment buildings,” Leonard said. “It is a three-year pilot program.”
According to Rice, community solar benefits the community in a number of ways, one of them having to do with money. It not only allows customers to save money on their utility bills but will enable people of all income levels, not just the upper class, to be able to use it.
“I think it’s important anytime you’re talking about these systems is that over the program there will be an allocation to low to medium income,” he said. “One of the things about solar is that you often hear the higher income folks are the only ones who can do it with more expensive houses. Community solar, the general assembly legislature, has done a good job of designing a system that promotes low and middle income.”
On top of the monetary aspect, community solar lends itself to the broader community as far as its use. It doesn’t require people to put solar panels on their houses, and those who rent or live in apartments can benefit from it. Community solar also gives new life to unused land and doesn’t disrupt other property such as farmland and creates jobs for the county.
Prince George’s County was chosen for the community solar project because of the available use of land and the availability of customers in the Pepco service territory to allow customers to use the panel.
Additionally, Maryland has been a leader in solar energy, Rice said. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Maryland has about one vehicle lot total of solar installed, which is number 13 in the country.
The Maryland General Assembly has the Community Solar Pilot Program split into phases over the next two or three years in the hopes of building more systems, Rice said. Over the next few years, Nautilus will be building more projects around the state and will soon be announcing systems in Howard County and in Baltimore County in White Marsh.
“I think that we, Nautilus Solar, have a commitment as far as that side as well so over our fitting into the context in Maryland I think that’s a part of the program that we’ll all see continue to grow and that’s important as far as they broader opportunity to take advantage of solar and take advantage of the savings,” said Rice. “That’s one of the important factors in community solar growth both in Prince George’s County and more broadly.”