County work­ing to­ward clean, so­lar en­ergy

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Your county govern­ment is com­mit­ted to creat­ing a more sus­tain­able com­mu­nity. The Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works is iden­ti­fy­ing clean en­ergy sys­tems to ful­fill the county’s green ini­tia­tives and sup­port re­new­able en­ergy. One com­po­nent of ini­tia­tive is the So­lar Power Pur­chase Pro­gram, which iden­ti­fies pos­si­ble so­lar pho­to­voltaic sys­tems on and around county prop­er­ties and fa­cil­i­ties.

The pro­gram pur­sues so­lar en­ergy projects that could save the county up to $665,000 an­nu­ally if 70 per­cent of the county’s elec­tric­ity de­mand was met by so­lar en­ergy. The county cur­rently uses more than 34 mil­lion kilo­watt-hours (kWh) of power a year for all county-op­er­ated fa­cil­i­ties, at a cost of nearly $2.5 mil­lion. The goal is to con­vert up to 50 per­cent of the county’s en­ergy needs from con­ven­tional elec­tric­ity to so­lar power, which would re­sult in an av­er­age net sav­ings of over $390,000 an­nu­ally. To meet 100 per­cent of the county’s elec­tric­ity needs, about 26 megawatts of so­lar power is needed. Ap­prox­i­mately 42 acres is needed to pro­duce 26 megawatts of elec­tric­ity by a so­lar ar­ray.

There are sev­eral cost-sav­ing so­lar projects pro­posed. So­lar canopies in the County Govern­ment Build­ing park­ing lot, an­tic­i­pated to be­gin in spring 2017, would pro­vide a pro­jected sav­ings of $35,000 a year over a 20-year life cy­cle. Two other po­ten­tial so­lar sites cur­rently be­ing ex­plored are Pis­gah Land­fill with $400,000 po­ten­tial an­nual sav­ings, and Breeze Farm Re­cy­cling Cen­ter with $154,000 po­ten­tial an­nual sav­ings. There are also unim­proved county-owned prop­er­ties that com­bined could save $283,000 each year.

Through so­lar en­ergy, our county pro­motes more sus­tain­able, re­new­able en­ergy. By us­ing 100 per­cent so­lar en­ergy, our county would avoid 6,700 tons of car­bon diox­ide emis­sions. So­lar en­ergy emits 1.3 to 3.2 ounces of car­bon diox­ide per kWh, while nat­u­ral gas emits be­tween 9.6 ounces to 2 pounds, and coal emits 1.4 to 3.6 pounds. One way car­bon diox­ide en­ters the at­mos­phere is through fos­sil fu­els be­ing burned and then it is re­moved when ab­sorbed by plants. If there is too much car­bon diox­ide, there may not be enough veg­e­ta­tion to ab­sorb it. So­lar en­ergy pro­vides an en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly op­tion for the county.

Other ma­jor green ini­tia­tive projects in­clude the Crain Me­mo­rial Wel­come Cen­ter Re­new­able En­ergy Cen­ter, which fea­tures an elec­tric ve­hi­cle charg­ing sta­tion and 12-kilo­watt wind tur­bine, and pro­vides sus­tain­able elec­tric power to re­duce reliance on the pub­lic util­ity grid. An­other is the Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary Wal­dorf West Branch, built in 2012, a green build­ing cer­ti­fied through U.S. Green Build­ing Coun­cil’s Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign. Charg­ing sta­tions were also in­stalled at three Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary branches: P.D. Brown, Po­tomac and Wal­dorf.

Through green ini­tia­tives, our county con­tin­ues to work to pro­vide en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices to ben­e­fit our res­i­dents. For more in­for­ma­tion about cur­rent and up­com­ing cap­i­tal im­prove­ment projects, go to www.CharlesCoun­­i­tal-ser­vices.

Please note: Cost sav­ings are pro­jec­tions based on av­er­age cur­rent rate of $0.073/kWh ver­sus av­er­age so­lar rate of $0.045/kWh.

Bill Shreve is the Charles County direc­tor of the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works.

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