By KAUSTUV BASU
The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — The array of solar panels all facing south give the appearance of a shimmering lake. And by late December, the 300,000 solar panels, each roughly the size of a 46-inch flat screen television near the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown off Roxbury Road, are expected to generate a peak of 20 megawatts of power per hour.
The solar farm annually will produce enough electricity to power 4,000 to 5,000 single family homes, according to an estimate by an official at First Solar Inc., the company leasing the land from the state to run the plant.
The solar farm, which is spread over 160 acres, will be the largest in Maryland, and represents one more step toward the state’s goal of generating 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2022.
Electricity generated from solar power is growing in the state.
In 2006, Maryland generated less than 0.1 megawatts of power from solar powered plants.
That number has grown to 70 megawatts and is expected to grow to 100 megawatts by the end of the year, according to a farewell statement by Malcolm Woolf, the former director of the Maryland Energy Administration, on the agency’s website.
Officials who work for First Solar, and Belectric, the company involved in the construction, said that an average of 160 workers have been working on the project every day since the summer.
About 75 to 80 percent of those workers are local, said Peter Seidel, regional project manager for First Solar.
Seidel said the rolling terrain around the state prison and the hard sub-surface rock presented challenges to the construction.
“Ideally, we like to have it on flat, level ground,” he said.
The project was approved in October 2011, and construction on the $70 million plant began over the summer.
Gov. Martin O’Malley was part of a groundbreaking ceremony for the project in July. At that ceremony, he said the country could either surrender to the forces of globalization and global warming or welcome renewable energy.
The solar panels are known as thin-film photovoltaic modules, which are manufactured by First Solar.
Electricity generated from the plant will be sold to FirstEnergy Solutions, and will then be fed into the state electricity grid, Seidel said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)