The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) will run a number of its facilities throughout the state with solar power, at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The Board of Public Works, chaired by Gov. Larry Hogan, approved the plan at its Feb. 7 meeting. MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn said no capital funds will be expended to pay for the program, and solar panels could be installed at up to 35 MDOT sites within 18 months. The program, one of the first of its kind in the country by a state transportation agency, is projected to generate 298 construction and 28 operations and maintenance jobs, with more positions added as solar power expands to other MDOT sites.

Through the bidding process, MDOT selected six master contractors who will compete to provide renewable solar energy for MDOT’s headquarters and the facilities of its business units: the State Highway Administration, the Maryland Transit Administration, the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Aviation Administration, the Maryland Port Administration and the Maryland Transportation Authority.

MDOT owns or controls more than 874 facilities, including buildings, parking garages and parking lots that could be studied for solar installation; but not all structures will qualify. MDOT will lease land to the developer, which will construct, own, operate and maintain the renewable energy infrastructure, without impacting existing parking or administrative functions of MDOT facilities. The initial contract for construction of the solar facilities is five years, with a two-year renewal option.

Once the solar systems are in place, MDOT will buy the power at a fixed rate for 20–25 years. For the project to be approved, the rate must be less than what MDOT would pay to the utility. MDOT expects its utility payments to drop from an average of 10 to 11 cents per kilowatt hour to 6 to 8 cents per kilowatt hour, a potential savings of 30–40%.