County working toward clean, solar energy
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.CharlesCountyMD.gov/pw/cs/capital-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.