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)