Maryland’s Board of Public Works voted two to one last Wednesday to approve the lease of state prison land to Maryland Solar, which is a solar farm, for the next 20 years. It was granted the lease for $32,050 each year, with a three percent yearly increase after the third year.
The 250 acres of prison land is located near the Maryland Correctional Institute in Hagerstown. At present the land is used as farmland and Maryland Solar has the option of unused portions of the land for agriculture. Before that, it used for dumping sludge and is not considered valuable.
According to the Board of Public Works, initial estimates of 100,000 solar panels on the land would cost the company around $70 million and would create at least 125 construction jobs once it begins later this year. Maryland Solar is the only bidder for the lease. Once completed, the solar farm will generate more than double the amount of solar energy in the state. It would produce 20 megawatts of solar power.
The board consists of Governor Martin O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, who was the only one who was against it. He said that the agreement didn’t give the state a share of the millions of dollars in federal renewable energy subsidies that Maryland Solar will receive. He questioned if the state practiced due diligence in determining whether the deal is the best one for the state.
According to sources, there was an unsolicited offer for the land that prompted the Maryland Department of General Services to accept proposals for it. But only Maryland Solar submitted one. The agency’s real estate division said that the request for proposals was posted for 30 days but there were no other party interested in the parcel of land.
According to Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, the state will receive a lot from this deal. Not only will it generate double the solar power on the grid, it would create more jobs, revenues for Washington County of $2.4 million in taxes, and the best part is that the state will not use any of its money for it. Woolf added that the state could not receive any federal tax credits that Maryland Solar would receive.
Maryland Solar was made by Beowulf Energy. Michael Enright, its managing director, served as Governor Martin O’Malley’s chief of staff and senior adviser before he left last year to join the private sector.