The Montgomery County school system is abandoning its plans for solar panel fields on three future school sites, including a controversial proposal for solar panels at its Brickyard Road site in Potomac.
Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers wrote in a Jan. 20 memo to the Board of Education that he will not be recommending the school system move forward with the proposal. The memo was first reported on the website of the Parents’ Coalition.
“Overall, the public input raises significant challenges that would make it difficult to obtain support for these projects,” Bowers wrote. “While the level of support and opposition at the three sites varied, it became clear that substantial modifications to the proposals at each of the sites would be necessary to address public concerns. These modifications would significantly reduce the benefits to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to the point that I do not consider it in MCPS’ best interest to proceed with these proposals.”
The proposals would’ve put solar panel fields on three sites under Board of Education ownership in Gaithersburg, Rockville and on Brickyard Road in Potomac. The sites are being held for potential future schools, but MCPS said the ground-mounted solar panels could’ve produced as much electricity as a standard county high school uses in a year.
MCPS said its deal with solar panel contractors SunEdison and Standard Solar could’ve saved the school system about $2.5 million in electricity costs over the 10-year term of the proposed contract.
At a public meeting on the Brickyard Road proposal in November, neighbors and supporters of the Brickyard Educational Farm that used to be located on the site registered their opposition to the project.
A school system official said the 12-acre solar panel array would’ve produced about 3.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year that would be connected to the electricity grid. The school system would’ve essentially been credited by Pepco at a rate that would’ve provided $90,000 in electricity cost savings a year.
But many at the meeting complained the solar panels would hurt the value of their nearby homes and that the site should be given back to the Brickyard Educational Farm, an organic farm that used the property until 2013.
Bowers wrote that SunEdison, the Missouri-based company that would’ve financed the $5 million construction of the solar panel field, “made a business decision to withdraw its proposal.”
Community concerns played a direct role in the decision not to move forward with solar panels on the Warfield Road site in Gaithersburg and the Cashell Road site in Rockville.
Almost half of the Warfield Road site is being used for a driving range at Laytonsville Golf Course, a facility also used by high school golf teams. About 15 homes, many with direct views of the site, abut the Cashell Road site.
Bowers said the school system will continue to pursue rooftop and other off-site solar panel arrays.