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A new solar energy project in Howard County will provide electricity to a church, college and residential customers while supporting the bee population.

HOWARD COUNTY, MD — A solar energy project currently underway in Howard County will provide electricity to St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in Cooksville, Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and individual customers in the county.

Chaberton Energy, a Maryland-based solar developer, and Pivot Energy, a national renewable energy owner and operator, have partnered to bring the Catherine Community Solar project to Howard County. The 19-acre project site is located on the property of St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church.

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“Pivot Energy shares our passion for the energy transition and works tirelessly to provide communities with access to local, affordable and clean energy,” said Mike Doniger, Chief Operating Officer at Chaberton Energy. “This project showcases the creativity of our development team as it combines three different solar business models into one project – a community solar project, a power purchase agreement with a nonprofit, and local electricity offsetting. We are grateful to St. Mary Church, Howard County officials, Loyola, and so many others who worked together to make this a reality.”

Project Catherine will provide a total of 4.3 megawatts of direct current (MWdc), enough to power 750 homes. Community solar customers will have access to 3.4 MWdc through the Maryland Community Solar program. Loyola will have access to 750 kilowatts of direct current (kWdc) through a renewable energy purchase agreement through the Maryland Aggregate Net Energy Metering program, and the remainder will be used to offset the church’s local load.

“Community solar projects offer a unique alternative to traditional solar installations and typical utility bills,” Erica Brinker, chief commercial and sustainability officer at Chaberton Energy, told Patch. “Unlike the solar panels commonly found on rooftops or sprawling utility installations, community solar installations are somewhere in between in terms of size. These projects allow members of the local community to subscribe to the electricity generated by the installation. In exchange for their subscription, participants receive credits on their utility bill, resulting in savings while supporting the adoption of clean energy.

“In other words, the subscriptions cumulatively cover all costs for the energy generated by the solar panels. This tends to be cheaper for consumers than buying the electricity directly from the utility, which can be generated from any fuel source, including fossil fuels,” Brinker added.

Just a few miles from Project Catherine is Chaberton’s Project Friendship in West Friendship, also in Howard County, which produces 6.25 MWdc, Brinker told Patch. Project Friendship is scheduled to come online in early 2023 and serves local community residents and small businesses through the Community Solar Maryland program and Loyola University Maryland through the Aggregate Net Energy Metering program.

“Like all of our projects in the Mid-Atlantic, the project includes pollinator habitat that will help restore bee populations and increase the productivity of surrounding farms,” Brinker said.

“Project Catherine is helping leading institutions in the community gain access to clean, affordable, local energy,” added Brit Gibson, Chief Operating Officer at Pivot Energy. “Our partnership with Chaberton and the willingness of St. Mary Church and Loyola University of Maryland to think outside the box have made the construction of this unique solar project possible.”

Project leaders worked with their partners and the community before developing the site and designing the project. For example, by limiting the solar array footprint to unused portions of the existing site, project planners were able to preserve prime sports fields for the church. Lease payments for the solar land also benefit St. Mary’s parish.

Chaberton Energy was founded in 2020 by Stefano Ratti, Senake Gajamera and Mike Doniger.