Maryland State Sen. Christopher B. Shank wants the state to renegotiate a proposed lease for a company to build a $70 million solar farm on prison land near Hagerstown.
His complaint is the lease price: $128 an acre per year, which he says is insufficient.
The state Board of Public Works is scheduled to consider the proposed lease Wednesday, but Shank, R-Washington, wrote a letter Friday to Gov. Martin O’Malley requesting that the discussion be tabled.
Shank’s letter says he doesn’t oppose the project, but indicated that governments elsewhere have received higher lease prices and charged additional fees based on the generation of energy from the project.
Word of Shank’s letter reached Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, over the weekend, and he reacted with outrage, accusing Shank of trying to kill a project that would bring about 125 construction jobs.
Asked if Shank’s lease questions were legitimate, Donoghue said, “I really don’t care what he says in that letter .... He’s just trying to gum this up.”
Maryland Solar LLC is seeking to rent land near the complex of three state prisons on Roxbury Road, south of Hagerstown.
The annual rent is proposed at $32,050 for 250 acres for the first three years of the lease.
In the fourth year, and every other year after that, the rent would increase 3 percent.
There are options for a unilateral five-year extension by Maryland Solar and a second five-year extension at the discretion of the Board of Public Works.
The state “did a lousy job in negotiating with this vendor,” Shank said in an interview Friday.
D. Bruce Poole, an attorney representing Maryland Solar, said that as prison land, it’s “highly compromised” and not suitable for development.
“It’s either solar panels or razor wire,” Poole said.
When Maryland put out a request for proposal for a solar project on the land, only Maryland Solar — an affiliate of a company led by former O’Malley senior aide Michael Enright — responded.
“There’s nobody knocking on the door to Washington County right now,” Poole said, wondering why Shank didn’t contact him or the company with his concerns.
If the state seeks an exorbitant lease, Maryland Solar might go elsewhere with the project, Poole said.
He noted that Maryland has a statutory requirement to have more renewable energy.
In his letter, Shank said “a local government in Maryland” is setting a lease for a larger solar project, on “otherwise non-useable land,” at $2,000 an acre. The agreement also includes a payment in lieu of taxation, a megawatt capacity fee and a choice of either a share of profits from selling energy credits or “drastically discounted power.”
The total value of the deal will be about $1 million, Shank wrote.