Montgomery County moves another step closer toward meeting the ambitious goal of eliminating greenhouse emissions by 2035 with an innovative partnership that will provide reliable clean energy for low-to-moderate income households and County Government. Ameresco, an energy efficiency and renewable energy company, will build three solar arrays on approximately 16 acres of underutilized County-owned land at the former Oaks Landfill located at 6010 Riggs Road, Gaithersburg. The County strongly believes in locating projects on brownfields to best utilize the County’s land resources.
The project will be 6 megawatts (MW) total, divided into three 2 MW arrays, and will generate 11.4 million kilowatt hours annually. Array 1 is for use by the County and under a power purchase agreement, providing the County government clean, renewable energy at no upfront cost. Arrays 2 and 3, each with 2 MW, will be a community solar project with 100% of the generated electricity provided to low-to-moderate income subscribers. Ameresco will finance, design, construct, own and operate all of the facilities.
“This public-private energy-saving initiative prioritizes renewable energy and wisely leverages underutilized public land to benefit a number of County interests,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “This agreement accelerates our environmental goals, lowers energy costs for hard-working families and places solar panels on brownfields, which should be the priority siting areas. The project provides residents unable to install solar on their own property with an opportunity to directly benefit from a shared solar power source.”
This project is the result of a 2019 Request for Energy Proposals issued by the County. Ameresco’s proposal was selected in large part due to the rate provided for low-to-moderate households, offering a 25 percent discount off the tariff rate to these subscribers. As of September 30, 2020, Ameresco has 17 solar photovoltaic landfill projects in operation, with more in development, and has developed more than 230 megawatts of solar photovoltaic projects.
“Our public-private partnership with Montgomery County to develop and implement a community solar program will provide energy cost savings to the County and to its participating low-to moderate-income residents. This project also leverages the use of an underutilized land asset that will produce revenue for the County, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to its carbon neutrality goal,” said Ameresco Executive Vice President and Director David J. Anderson. “This initiative is a true testament to the County’s vision and commitment to sustainability that will deliver economic and environmental benefits to the Montgomery County Community for many years to come.”
As with all its projects, the County seeks to promote innovation and community stewardship. Community benefits of the project go beyond providing clean energy; construction of the solar arrays prioritizes County job creation. Ameresco is committed to working to subcontract a portion of the work to local small and minority, female and disabled-owned business firms. During pre-construction, Ameresco will seek and encourage local business and workforce participation in the project, emphasizing the high quality, career-ladder jobs that the project will create in the community.
Additionally, a partnership with local vocational and educational institutions will be created to provide opportunities for aspiring professionals during design and construction. The County’s youngest residents will also have a unique opportunity to learn from the project, as Ameresco designed and built a solar power wagon as a hands-on learning tool appropriate for K-12 students.
This project will add to the County’s numerous other solar photovoltaic initiatives, including microgrids at the County’s Public Safety Headquarters in Gaithersburg and the Correctional Facility in Clarksburg, which are on-site clean power generation systems. Both facilities can operate independently from the power grid to ensure continuity of operations in the event of a catastrophic storm or major power outage.
Since taking office, County Executive Elrich has outlined significant priorities to reduce the County’s carbon footprint, including prioritizing clean energy, energy efficiency, enhancing building design, reducing waste, and developing an improved transit system. To accomplish these goals there are more than 45 new initiatives planned for the next few years that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and impact on the environment.
The County’s Department of General Services is implementing initiatives to reduce the environmental impact across all County departments to ensure the County leads by example. Installing solar canopies and rooftop panels on libraries, recreation and aquatics centers, police and fire stations, offices and more will maximize the generation of clean energy. The Department is developing a microgrid to support electric bus charging at the Silver Spring Transit Depot in support of the County’s commitment to convert its fleet to electric vehicles. The microgrid is a clean power generation system designed to operate independently of the power grid and will be able to charge the future fleet of electric buses with electricity generated onsite. The site is scheduled to be commissioned in 2021.
To learn more about Montgomery County’s initiatives to green government operations, visit the Department of General Services’ Office of Energy and Sustainability webpage.