EMMITSBURG, MD - Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley made a stop in Emmitsburg to see what 220,000 solar panels look like. He also helped cut the ribbon, along with other elected officials, for a massive solar farm at Mount Saint Mary's University.
"Creating a clean, green energy future is really important, not only for our environment, but for job creation," O'Malley (D) said. "We now have been ranked fourth among the states in terms of having the largest number of people that are now in this emerging clean energy sector."
Constellation Energy rents the land from the Mount and operates the solar farm.
"The Mount was selected for multiple reasons, the proximity of the grid where we wanted to tie into the grid, and of course the relationship with the Mount being a wonderful host," said Rick Justice, renewable energy manager for Constellation Energy.
The 100-acre solar farm is the largest operation one in Maryland. It'll power part of Mount Saint Mary's University and other places throughout the state.
The panels will supply the Mount with 1.6 megawatts of energy. That's enough to power more than 350 cars for a year.
The farm will also put about 16.1 megawatts of energy into the grid to power the University System of Maryland and the Maryland Department of General Services. That would run 1,700 cars for a year.
"I know that when I examined it for my farm it was pretty prohibitive, and that was many, many years ago. As we end up with more and more facilities like this, I think the cost will come down and the economics will then make sense for us to make it a strong public policy," said Sen. David Brinkley, (R) - Frederick County.
The grid-connected system is expected to produce more than 20 kilowatt hours a year. That keeps about 18,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the environment each year.
"We've been trailing too much a lot of the rest of the world in this. It creates a lot of jobs, and it's just great to get off the fossil fuels as much as possible," said Sen. Ron Young, (D) - Frederick and Washington Counties.
Congressman Roscoe Bartlett thinks solar energy is important for our national security.
"The grid could be brought down. There's several things that could bring the grid down, a giant solar storm, a terrorist attack, a cyber attack, a nuclear detonation above the atmosphere in and in that case, arrays like this are going to be very important because after that happens, these things are not affected by any of those," said Bartlett, who represents Maryland's 6th Congressional District.
The solar panels will be around for a long time. The Mount, the University System of Maryland, and the Maryland Department of General Services have signed a 20-year agreement to get their energy from the sun.