CHURCH HILL — An overview of the proposed Bluegrass solar panel project was provided during a pubic hearing May 1 at Church Hill Elementary School. No one from the public testified.
The 487-acre solar array by Bluegrass Solar LLC is slated to be north of Church Hill, east of Route 213 and north of Route 300. Present at the hearing was Chief Public Utility Law Judge Ryan C. McLean to hear input from residents with any concerns about environmental impacts.
When completed, the panels will create an 80-megawatt solar generating facility in Queen Anne’s County.
“The project consists of a northern and southern array, with a 50-foot easement connecting the arrays,” said Jason M. Du Terroil, director of business development for Avangrid Renewables LLC. “The project will connect to the existing electrical line located on-site, via a new substation. We plan to achieve commercial operations between 2021 and 2023 and operate the plant for up to 40 years.”
According Du Terroil, the project will have a positive affect on local air, soil and water quality through the planting and maintenance of approximately 475 acres of various pollinator-friendly vegetation mixes. When constructed, Bluegrass Solar LLC will be the largest project within Maryland to meet or exceed the state standard.
It will also offset an estimated 690,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere; the equivalent of removing about 135,000 cars from the road each year.
Economically, the project will employ up to three permanent jobs to ensure the continued operation of the facility, and more than 250 people will be employed during construction.
“To ensure a direct benefit to the county and throughout the project, Bluegrass Solar will advertise positions at local job fairs, through local advertising, and will work with nearby colleges to explore job training opportunities,” said Du Terroil.
The project will provide the county with up to $6,000,000 in additional tax revenue, Du Terroil said.
Marni Carroll, director of Development for the Mid-Atlantic region for OneEnergy Renewables, was the lead drafter of the Environmental Review document narrative.
“Due to the nature of solar generation, there will be no waste during operation of the project,” said Carroll. “During construction, any waste material will be collected and removed, and brought to an approved waste handling facility. Queen Anne’s County requires the project to hold two bonds: one for decommissioning and a maintenance bond ensure adequate establishment of the vegetative buffer.”
Official reports filed by OneEnergy Renewables state the project is consistent with the purposes and intent of the Queen Anne’s County Comprehensive Plan. The plan also recognizes the importance of “solar and other alternative energy conservation methodologies” in providing for community development and rural agricultural preservation.
The project is currently working to confirm Forest Conservation Act calculations in consultation with Queen Anne’s County Planning staff. The project will comply primarily by putting the hardwoods and evergreens in the vegetative buffer and a portion of the existing forest in permanent easement. For any additional acres required to comply, the county has expressed a preference for on-site plantings.
“Changes to design would only occur should Delmarva Power and Light have requests with respect to the substation or based on input from the Queen Anne’s County Planning Board. The project anticipates having all permits in hand by September 2019,” said Carroll.