Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Selling of the Sun

Look closely at the photo that accompanies this story by Sara Toth in Explore Howard about the ribbon cutting for the new solar farm adjacent to Worthington Elementary School in Ellicott City. Notice that the ceremonial scissors and the ribbon itself are emblazoned with the logo for SunEdison. Curiously, you won’t find anybody from SunEdison in the picture.

You also won’t find any mention of the company in the article.

This is interesting because SunEdison is the actual owner of this new solar installation. SunEdison will be selling the power generated by these panels on the former county landfill, back to the school system.

SunEdison was the indirect recipient of almost a half million dollars in taxpayer funds to build this project, in addition to getting the land they sit on at no cost. They were unquestionably the big winner yesterday but no one from the company spoke at the ceremony. It was almost as if the county was attempting to downplay the true economic nature of the project. The school will not be getting free energy from sun. They will be paying for energy from SunEdison that benefited from hefty government subsidies. In his remarks, County Exec Ken Ulman only made a passing reference to the fact that the school would be buying the power at “below market rates.” He never even mentioned SunEdison.

One of my pet peeves about this project is that it cut off a nice half mile trail that, despite the No Trespassing signs, many local residents used for daily walks or runs until SunEdison came along. On my way into the solar ceremony I ran into Josh Feldmark, the Director of the HoCo Office of Environmental Sustainability. I asked him if, now that the project was completed, would the county allow public access back to that half mile loop.
“Uh sure,” he said.

We’ll see. Perhaps I should have asked the representatives from SunEdison instead.
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