Chesapeake City-area solar farm comes back into spotlight

This farm north of Chesapeake City, which has long been for sale, will soon be turned, in part, into the county’s largest solar array.

ELKTON — Cecil County’s largest solar energy project to date is set to come to a farm along state Route 213 next year, after the project spent some time in the dark.

The $17 million project, known as Chesapeake Solar LLC, will generate roughly 9 megawatts of power on 55 acres of land. One megawatt of power can bring energy to 164 homes, while nine could power 1,476 in the Delmarva Power coverage area, according to SunEast Development, the project’s West Chester, Pa.-based developer.

But Chesapeake Solar won’t be a community solar project, which sells energy to residences like past community service projects, SunEast Development Chief Operating Officer Reed Wills said. Instead, the solar farm will provide energy to municipalities, nonprofits and other agricultural businesses as an aggregate net meter project.

“We have high hopes for building a solar field in Cecil County, and now we’re one step closer. We’re having discussions with interested parties at this time. We look forward to serving the community by next year,” Wills said on July 29.

The project initially was planned to install 40,000 solar panels on 1679 Augustine Herman Highway, owned by J.R. Crouse Holdings LLC, between Route 213 and Spears Hill Road. The scope of the project has since fallen slightly in size, but still will be contained in the same footprint.

Once construction is complete, Chesapeake Solar will be the largest solar farm in Cecil County.

Last year, the county approved a 2-megawatt solar project along Blue Ball Road. There are multiple solar arrays near wastewater treatment plants and schools throughout the county, and one near the Cecil County Administration Building.

To maximize energy efficiency and minimize glare, the facility will use single-axis solar panels, which sit on the north-south axis and follow the sun.

While the area is not densely populated, the property does border a residential development on Spears Hill Road. The solar farm will be screened by 800 trees and shrubs as well as an 8-foot fence along Route 213.

In the summer of 2017, SunEast Development proposed to install a solar array on a nearly 100-acre farm that languished on the real estate market for years.

SunEast Development held a public hearing that year to fulfill requirements set by the state Public Service Commission and later secured approval from the PSC in 2018.

But the project disappeared from public view in the last few years, as SunEast Development worked and waited for the tools needed to make it happen.

“It’s really about the infrastructure about why it’s taken a bit of time with this project,” Wills said. “Solar has been around the Eastern Shore, but in Delmarva it’s a relatively new process and getting to that end-of-the-line confidence in finalizing construction for it.”

As an aggregate net meter project, Chesapeake Solar also needed to complete the county’s zoning process if it planned to work with local institutions, Wills added.

In July, both the county Planning Commission and the Board of Appeals approved the project, despite the concerns of some neighbors related to stormwater runoff and property values.

and it now heads to the Cecil County Council for final consideration.

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