BERLIN — Less than six months ago, the Maryland State Legislature enacted a bill calling for the state to have at least 20 percent of its power generated by renewable energy in the next 10 years. Next week, Berlin will be on the road to participating in providing some of that renewable energy as LS Power Development LLC begins the process of opening a solar panel field on Old Ocean City Boulevard.
Company spokesperson Blake Wheatley said that the company was attracted to the East Coast generally and Maryland and Pennsylvania specifically because of the two states’ declared commitments to renewable energy. Worcester County was selected as a site almost as a result of blind luck.
As LS Power Development began scouting potential sites, it was hoping to find just the right combination of factors that would allow them to get the project completed relatively quickly and with reduced expenses.
One of the greatest expenses for utilities is infrastructure and running power lines doesn’t only include the expense of the physical equipment but, as electricity travels distances, it can dissipate. The amount is small but present.
Another challenge it faced was that in order to make the project worth doing, the company needed at least 80 acres on which to construct the facility. The former Taylor Farm has two parcels that will allow the company to erect a facility covering about 95 acres, while also leaving plenty of additional room for them to comply with the forestation rules that come with construction.
The fact that there was land with sufficient space for sale directly across the street from a Delmarva Power substation made the plot just outside of Berlin as attractive a site as could be.
Finding the right place is one thing, but meeting the demands of the local government is another. Wheatley said the company followed Worcester County’s recent renewables legislation and has a reasonable comfort level about the likelihood of a deal getting done.
Jennifer Grasso, the county staffer who chairs the Technical Review Committee (TRC) which will hear the outline of LS Power Development’s plans next week, said the county passed several rounds of legislation with the goal of attracting or at least being hospitable to this kind of development.
Rules governing renewable energy production were written into the county code in 2009. This year, they county passed a special exemption clause allowing facilities of this kind to be constructed on most properties zoned for agricultural or industrial uses. The two parcels in question are zoned A-1 Agricultural.
Although the approval process can take as much as a year or longer, if things go well it could take as little as six months to get final approval. Should the county approve the project, construction will take about a year.
Mayor Gee Williams said that he was contacted by then-Director of Economic Development Jerry Redden as a matter of courtesy as the company started looking into purchasing property near Berlin. While he wasn’t sure whether there would be affordable power available to the Berlin Electric Company, he said the fact that the project will be located near town is acceptable to say the least.
“In concept, we’re certainly not against anything that is going to provide clean energy,” he said.
LS Power Development’s nearest completed project is the Dover Sun Park in Dover, Del. but they have several active and under-development projects around the country in both renewable and traditional energy generation. The projects can be found at the company website www.lspower.com
The TRC hearing on LS Power Development’s plans is slated for 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9 at the Government Building in Snow Hill.