Solar farm planned for Cumberland County

A Seattle-based solar energy developer plans to build a solar farm in South Middleton Township, Cumberland County, potentially the first in a series of Pennsylvania projects for the company.

Teichos Energy is eyeing 273 acres of farmland on 181 Oxford Road to lease for the next 30 years for a solar project that it says would provide 20 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power 6,500 homes. The project is the second solar farm announced by the company, coming on the heels of a recent state law designed to encourage solar projects in Pennsylvania.

The proposed location for the solar farm checked all of the necessary boxes for Teichos, according to Jonathan Bowser, a consultant on the project and managing partner with real estate firm Integrated Development Partners.

A transmission line running through the property, leveled topography and grading, proximity to a major highway and interest from the municipal government were all vital to finding the right place for the solar farm, Bowser said.

“They are very committed to Pennsylvania. They see a lot of great potential here,” he said. “Their goal is to sell power to users and they see this as a very profitable market.”

Jim Voorhees, vice President and land acquisition manager for Teichos, said that plans to bring the company’s solar projects to Pennsylvania were in place before Act 40 was enacted. The act was adopted last year and limits state incentives for solar projects to those located within the state. Under previous law, incentives were available to projects outside Pennsylvania.

“We’ve been here before that law came around, but we are definitely appreciative of Act 40,” Voorhees said.

Voorhees said the decision to move into the state was about anticipating where solar wasn’t happening and preparing for the future. Teichos has already announced it will also be building a farm in the Shamokin area, with more projects planned in the coming months.

“It’s sort of on a timeline. We are managing each one individually,” Voorhees said. “They have their own startup cycle. We have a concentrated effort in the region for sure.”

Teichos also hopes to benefit by having its Pennsylvania solar arrays within the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection, or PJM, an organization that operates an electric transmission system in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

Expanding into the PJM will allow Teichos to sell not only to utilities, but to expand its market to sell to large organizations like universities and corporations.

As Teichos continues to work with South Middleton Township on permitting and zoning approval for the space, Voorhees said Teichos will be working with the municipal government to come up with a plan that brings funding into the municipality despite state tax exemptions for renewable energy.

“Our goal is to make this work with each community,” he said. “We have yet to determine what the best course of action is for them and how to align revenues with their needs.”

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