Howard County Government has signed an agreement that will build enough solar energy capacity to generate 30% of the energy needed for government buildings and operations. All at no up-front cost to County taxpayers.
A solar PPA is a way for the County to meet its renewable energy generation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals without any upfront costs. Through a solar PPA, the solar company installs, owns, operates, and maintains solar panels and associated solar energy generation equipment at its sole expense. These solar energy systems can be on County-owned or non-County-owned property. The County then pays a per kilowatt hour rate for the electricity generated by the solar energy systems, just as it would to any other energy supplier. The solar company takes on considerable capital costs and risks, therefore to make the cost of electricity competitive, the County agrees to purchase the power generated for a term similar to the useful life of the panels, usually 20 to 30 years.
How Much Energy Will Be Generated?
The PPA includes approximately 24 MW DC of solar, which is expected to generate approximately 34,500,000 kWh per year. This is approximately 30 percent of the total annual electricity use for County government operations. This greatly exceeds the County’s goal to obtain 20 percent of the power needed for County government operations from renewable energy by 2024. Over the 25-year contract term, the anticipated greenhouse gas emissions reduction is 536,613 metric tons Carbon Dioxide Equivalent, which is similar to taking 113,931 cars off the road for a year.
How Much Money Will We Save?
The PPA rate is $0.07391/kWh, a savings of $0.00109/kWh from our current Baltimore Regional Cooperative Purchasing Committee (BRCPC) negotiated rate. This results in a savings of $37,605 per year. In addition, the solar company will pay the County $15,000 per year in additional fees as part of the agreement, bringing our savings to $52,605. Over 25 years, accounting for degradation of the panels over time, the County anticipates total savings on electricity of $827,310 and an additional $375,000 in payments from KDC to the County. The County anticipates a total cost benefit of $1.2 million over 25 years.
Where Will Projects Be Located?
The projects will include approximately 18 MW DC of solar on non-County owned property and 6 MW DC of solar on County-owned property. County staff are working with the vendor to select appropriate privately-owned properties within Howard County. County-owned property will include a mix of rooftop, ground-mount, and canopies over parking on 8 or more properties, including the new Circuit Courthouse. Other County properties under consideration include Carr’s Mill Landfill, East Columbia 50+ Center/East Columbia Library, North Laurel Community Center, Scaggsville Public Safety Complex, detention Center, Elkridge Library, Ascend One Building, Fire Station 1 in Elkridge, Glenwood Fire Station, Long Reach Village Center, Gateway Building, Gary Arthur Community Center, and George Howard Building.
Rooftop and canopies over parking tend to be the most expensive solar projects. Through this PPA, the County is able to leverage the lower costs of ground-mount solar projects on non-County owned property to obtain rooftop and canopy solar at a competitive cost.
What Other Benefits Will the Project Provide?
In addition to cost savings and greenhouse gas emissions reduction, the project includes workforce development by training local residents in solar installation, bringing Circuit Courthouse and East Columbia 50+ Center from LEED Silver to LEED Gold, and installation of pollinator habitat. In addition, the non-County owned property will showcase sheep grazing under solar panels, as well as pollinator habitat and opportunities for bee-keeping.
What Was the Procurement Process Used?
The County conducted a competitive bid process following Maryland Department of Transportation’s Master Contract for solar photovoltaic installations. The County’s Task Order Request for Proposals was sent to the six pre-qualified master contractors under MDOT’s contract. Three companies submitted bids. The County reviewed bids, followed up with written questions, conducted interviews, requested a Best and Final Offer, and selected a company: KDC Solar, Inc.