Elms Power Plant Proposal Under Review

By Guy Leonard, The County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. — Officials with county government confirm that an as yet unnamed power plant builder may want to build a solar power facility on the Elms property in Lexington Park, possibly answering several years of speculation over just what type of plant would be placed there.

The state has had plans for decades to build a power production facility of some kind on the property, part of which is leased to the county for use by the Board of Education and local hunters.

Derick Berlage, director of the county’s planning and zoning agency, said that representatives with the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and members of the Elms Advisory Committee, residents appointed by county commissioners to oversee the property’s use, will learn more about the potential project at a Jan. 5 meeting set for 11a.m. in the Chesapeake Building in Leonardtown.

“We’ve been informed from DNR that they’ve been in discussions with a private company that is interested in building a power plant that would turn solar energy into electricity,” Berlage told The County Times Monday. “DNR contacted the county in the past week and told us that the discussions had become serious enough to brief us [on the proposal.]”

The County Times reported last year that the state was in negotiations with a private developer to build the power plant at the Elms property, which contains an environmental education center for the school system as well as park land, but the state would not reveal who the developer was or what type of power plant the facility might be.

A letter from Peter Dunbar, director of the Power Plant Research Program at DNR, informed the county commissioner board that back in August the developer proposed leasing 20 acres of the total 1,020 acres there to build the four mega-watt facility.

The facility could be placed on a site where some abandoned and dilapidated homes now stand, Dunbar said.

“We are most interested in this renewable energy project… it appears to be an excellent fit with the existing electrical infrastructure of the county and also strikes us as an equally excellent complement to the county environmental center’s activities,” Dunbar wrote in his Dec. 20 letter.

Dunbar said that the meeting would be to discuss lease options for the developer and he described the project as “pretty potential.”

“This is just the first step in seeing what lease options are available to a developer,” Dunbar said in recorded message to The County Times.

The state purchased the land back in 1974 for the purposes of building a new power plant, with 476 acres leased to the county for hunting grounds, the Elms Environmental Education Center and for the county park space.

The rest of the state controlled portion has been in use for hunting purposes since plans to build a power generating facility there have been as yet unfulfilled.

Dunbar went on to write that the potential solar power plant “does not preclude the development of other generation facilities in the future.”

Dunbar’s letter state’s that construction of the facility could begin in late 2011 if the plan meets project review requirements as well as mandates from the Public Service Commission.

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