Ground broken for UMCES solar field

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Leaders of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) were joined by state and federal officials Sept. 7 for a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of a solar power facility at the UMCES Horn Point Laboratory. From the left are Bill Redish from the office of Rep. Andy Harris (R-1), Melissa Kelly from the office of U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kimberly Kratovil from the office of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), UMCES Assistant Director for Facilities Jeff Miley, UMCES President Dr. Donald Boesch, UMCES Horn Point Laboratory Director Dr. Michael Roman, Standard Solar Chief Development Officer Tony Clifford, UMCES Director of Facilities Administration Ray Cho, Maryland Energy Administration Director Dr. Mary Beth Tung, and Director of Engineering and Energy at the University of Maryland at College Park Maryann Ibeziako.

HORN POINT – The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Standard Solar marked the beginning of a partnership to bring sustainable energy to the Horn Point Laboratory campus with a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 7.
Standard Solar will install a 10-acre solar field on campus that will generate about 50 percent of the lab’s annual energy consumption, with cost savings over the course of the 20-year agreement. UMCES has also received a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration to install four vehicle-charging stations under a new solar canopy.
“Higher education has a key role to play in shaping a sustainable society. It’s essential that we lead by example,” UMCES President Dr. Donald Boesch said in a prepared statement. Dr. Boesch has led the University of Maryland’s Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change Inititive since 2008.
The 2-megawatt system has an expected approximate annual generation of 3.5 megawatt hours of solar renewable energy. The solar field is expected to be in service by the spring of 2018.
Speaking to a dozens of educators, government officials and spectators before the groundbreaking, Dr. Boesch said, “We have a planetary emergency,” noting that the previous three years have been the hottest on record.
Higher temperatures mean more energy available for storms – while he said it’s hard to say if the recent disasters to hit the country are individually the results of climate change, “These are the kinds of things we will see more of in the future.”
The consensus among scientists is that reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels is one way to alleviate climate change. “We have to get to the point that we’re carbon neutral” in 50 years, Dr. Boesch said.
The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is a signatory to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and has launched several programs aimed at reducing its environmental footprint. These include setting goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at laboratories, upgrading aging infrastructure to newer, more energy-efficient alternatives, and building all new campus buildings to at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard or equivalent.
The project is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in which the entity, Standard Solar, installs and operates the solar panels in exchange for the use of land, and UMCES agrees to purchase the equivalent energy being generated over the next 20 years from Standard Solar.
“This system will be an economic, environmental and educational opportunity in the future,” Standard Solar Chief Development Officer Tony Clifford said. Mr. Clifford told the audience the system will save money, will offset more than 4.5 million pounds of carbon annually, and will help educate future leaders about solar energy.
“We truly have a win-win-win situation,” he said.
“The solar field is another example of how we are using innovative ways to manage Horn Point Laboratory in a way that reduces our environmental footprint and engages with the community,” said Mike Roman, director of the Horn Point Laboratory. “This project also contributes to increasing Maryland’s in-state distributed electricity generation capacity and reducing the dependency on electricity imported from other states.”
Dr. Boesch noted that the project has received support from across the political spectrum.
“As a blue state with red borders, with a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature, we have agreement,” he said. “That is unusual in this country.”
“Investing in renewable energy is a huge win for the state because we are creating jobs, supporting economic growth via electricity bill reduction, and addressing environmental concerns shared by all Marylanders,” Director of the Maryland Energy Administration Mary Beth Tung said.
The promise of solar power charging stations at the lab is already generating economic activity. Dr. Boesch, himself the owner of an electric car, said, “We have faculty and staff already going out and buying electric and hybrid vehicles.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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