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Lancaster County retirement community plans large solar expansion

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Solar panels installed in 2011 provide 1.2 million kWh of electricity per year for Masonic Villages' 1,400-acre Elizabethtown campus. A planned expansion is expected to triple that production.
Solar panels installed in 2011 provide 1.2 million kWh of electricity per year for Masonic Villages' 1,400-acre Elizabethtown campus. A planned expansion is expected to triple that production. - (Photo / )

Masonic Village at Elizabethtown plans to triple the size and power of its already large array of solar panels.

Masonic Village installed its first ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system - often called a solar farm - at its flagship Elizabethtown community in 2011. The system produces 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and saves the 1,400-acre campus between $40,000 and $60,000 in energy costs annually, Masonic Village officials said.

Construction is underway on an expansion of the system that will triple its current production capacity. The expanded array is expected to generate 15 percent of the campus's electricity.

Lower Allen Township-based Solar Renewable Energy LLC is helping to finance the project as part of a production sharing agreement, under which Solar Renewable Energy will own the expanded array for the first six years after construction. Masonic will then purchase the system from the company.

The two expect to see the expansion up and running by Feb. 1, 2018.

Eco-friendly retirement communities are growing in popularity among aging baby boomers, some reports say, with demand for campuses with solar power, geothermal heating, energy-efficient appliances and walkable communities outpacing availability.

In addition to its solar farm, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown touts a collection of high-efficiency microturbines and water- and electricity-saving fixtures as part of a plan to increase energy efficiency. Company officials expect the Elizabethtown campus to generate close to a quarter of its energy with solar panels and microturbines after it finishes the solar farm expansion. 

Masonic Village at Elizabethtown is the largest of Masonic Villages' five campuses. Other ongoing projects at the Elizabethtown campus include construction of 48 new senior-friendly townhomes and 72 new cottages, as well as tests of smart-home technologies

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Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @jenni_wentz.

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