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Maryland Public Utility Law Judge Grants, Subject To Conditions, Approval For Estimated $35m Solar, Storage Project

April 16, 2021
As noted in the filing, depending on permitting resolution, PJM Interconnection processing, and financing, project construction is estimated to begin this summer, with completion and operation startup by December.

A Maryland Public Service Commission public utility law judge, Christine Burke, in an April 7 proposed order, granted, subject to certain conditions, Point Reyes Energy Partners, LLC’s application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to build a solar energy facility and a battery energy storage system in Allegany County, Md.

As noted in the filing, Point Reyes in May 2020 filed an application with the commission seeking authority to build the 19.84-MW solar photovoltaic (PV) generating facility in Allegany County, with the project comprising construction of about 113 acres consisting of three components: a solar PV array with Tax Map 0024, Grid 0007, Parcel 0007; an interconnection line tap onto the Carlos Junction-Lonaconing 34.5-kV line; and a 5.25-MW (peak) energy storage component located on the site.

The site is currently owned by the Allegany Coal and Land Company and was permitted for surface coal mining from 1977 through 1996, Burke said, adding that since then, the mine has been reclaimed and the permit closed. Point Reyes has signed an option to lease the parcel from the current owner for the proposed project.

Further describing the project, Burke added that it would consist of about 70,538 Longi Bifacial solar modules configured in rows to connect with eight on-site power stations, with each of those stations consisting of a concrete inverter pad and transformer.

Burke said that the project would join the Potomac Edison (PE) system at the point of interconnection (POI) via a line tap on the Carlos Junction-Lonaconing 34.5-kV line and building a one-span tap.

The battery energy storage system (BESS) proposed by Point Reyes would utilize lithium iron phosphate battery technology enclosed in eight containers, each on a concrete pad. Burke added that five battery containers would be located near the northwestern corner of the project site and three are proposed to be about 1,000 feet to the southeast. All electrical lines to and from the PV system to the BESS would be below ground and both systems would connect to the grid at the POI, Burke noted.

According to Point Reyes, Burke said, the project would help Maryland in meeting its renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which mandates that 50% of the state’s electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2030, including at least 14.5% solar energy by 2028.

Among other things, Burke said that she finds that the project would not have a significant adverse visual impact on the adjacent and surrounding properties.
In addition, Burke said that Point Reyes’ compliance with the final licensing conditions would result in the project satisfying the federal and state environmental laws and the county’s zoning ordinances governing utility scale solar arrays located in the county.

Those conditions include that in accordance with Point Reyes’ proposal to create pollinator habitats on the project site, Point Reyes should use native flowering plants to establish and maintain long-term pollinator habitats where possible throughout the solar facility.

Another condition calls for project construction to begin within three years of receiving the CPCN, and for the project to be in operation no later than four years after receipt of the CPCN.

Burke noted that Point Reyes estimates the cost of the project to be $35m, and that depending on permitting resolution, PJM Interconnection processing, and financing, construction is estimated to begin in July or August, with completion and operation startup by December.

Burke said that the proposed order will become a final commission order on May 8, unless before that date an appeal is noted with the commission by any party to the proceeding, or the commission modifies or reverses the proposed order, or initiates further proceedings in the matter.

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