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February 14, 2011

Terps climbing on the solar bandwagon

The University of Maryland is going solar, installing more than 2,600 photovoltaic panels on one of its buildings near the College Park campus.

The 631-kilowatt system is to be placed on the roof of the Severn building, a multi-purpose structure less than a mile from the campus.  It will be installed by Standard Solar Inc. of Rockville, and owned and operated by Washington Gas Energy Services. UM has agreed to buy the electricity generated by the solar panels - about 792 megawatt-hours annually - under a 20-year contract.

University officials say it will be one of the biggest solar installations in the state, though it's dwarfed by the 2.1-megawatt solar "farm" being built at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.  Spice maker McCormick & Co. already has 1 megawatts' worth of solar panels on two of its buildings in Hunt Valley, and poultry producer Perdue announced recently it was putting 5,000 solar panels capable of generating up to 1.1 megawatts of electricity at its Salisbury headquarters.

Even if it's not so huge after all, the solar panels at College Park should reduce the campus carbon footprint by more than 600 tons a year, university officials estimate, or about as many greenhouse gas emissions as you'd get from burning 64,000 gallons of gasoline annually.

The College Park project was made possible by a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration. Under Project Sunburst, MEA provided grants to subsidize 18 different solar installations on school, university and government buildings. Funding for the grants, which provide rebates of $1,000 per kilowatt-DC of photovoltaic capacity installed, came from federal stimulus funds.

State officials said when announcing the grants last year that the 9.9 megawatts' capacity from those projects would roughly triple the solar generating capacity on Maryland's electric grid. Other big Sunburst projects to come include 750-kilowatt systems atop Baltimore's Convention Center and at Anne Arundel Community College.

(Solar panels atop McCormick manufacturing plant in Hunt Valley, 2010. Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

Posted by Tim Wheeler at 1:07 PM | | Comments (1)


As the University of Baltimore (a member of University System of Maryland ) goes green, it's leading the way in better building. Given the University's urban setting, revamping existing structures is often the smartest choice. In the coming months, you'll see major and minor changes throughout campus buildings. With each step, UB will become a more energy-efficient campus.

Daylight Harvesting and Green Roofing

Two of UB's most notable additions will be over your head—or up on the roof, to be precise. New skylights will be installed on the roof of the University gym to "harvest" daylight through photovoltaic solar panels. Not only will the skylights cut down on the need for artificial light, but the solar panels will convert captured daylight to electrical energy.

Additionally, the roof of the current John and Frances Angelos Law Center is now green—visibly green. This colorful change is more than a fashion statement. Plant life on the roof's panels have transformed it into a structure that reflects sunlight and heat, reduces the energy used to cool the building, reduces storm water runoff, and produces oxygen rather than greenhouse gases.

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About the bloggers
Tim WheelerTim Wheeler reports on the environment and Chesapeake Bay. A native of West Virginia, he has focused mainly on Maryland's environment since moving here in 1983. Along the way, he's crewed aboard a skipjack in the bay, canoed under city streets up the Jones Fall from the Inner Harbor, and gone deep underground in a western Maryland coal mine. He loves seafood, rambles in the country and good stories. He hopes to share some here.

Contributor Christy Zuccarini has been blogging about the local DIY craft scene for a year for She brings her pespective on all things handmade to B'More Green, where she will highlight projects you can do yourself as well as crafters who are integrating sustainable methods and materials.

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