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State Program Funds Solar Project at U Maryland College Park

With the help of a Maryland state energy program, the University of Maryland, College Park is gearing up to deploy a 631 kilowatt solar rooftop installation. The program is part of an ongoing effort by the university to fulfill its obligation under the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment to reduce carbon emissions resulting from campus operations, with the eventual goal of achieving carbon neutrality.

The installations are being funded partially by a grant from the state of Maryland's Project Sunburst initiative, which also recently helped fund a 500 kilowatt plant located at Baltimore's Coppin State University.

Project Sunburst, operated through the Maryland Energy Administration, promotes the use of public facilities to host clean energy installations, with project partners contracting out for the electricity generated via power purchase agreements. Under the program, organizations that house the installations receive contracts to purchase the generated power at reduced rates, allowing organizations like UMD to further their commitment to green energy while also providing a financial benefit to the host institutions.

For the UMD installation, partner Washington Gas Energy Services will provide financing for the rest of the project. UMD, for its part, will "purchase the electricity generated by the solar panels under a 20-year agreement with WGES," according to information published today by the university.

"The University is committed to addressing the significant challenges of this generation, including environmental sustainability, climate change, and renewable energy," said Ann Wylie, vice president of Administrative Affairs and chair of the University Sustainability Council at UMD, in a prepared statement. "The use of solar energy--a clean energy source that produces no greenhouse gases--will move us another step closer to achieving our vision for a greener campus embodied in the university's Strategic Plan."

UMD's installation will include more than 2,600 solar panels affixed to the roof of a single off-campus building, a "multi-purpose facility located less than a mile from the College Park campus." The project is expected to reduce the university's carbon output by 600 tons per year, "the equivalent of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from 64,000 gallons of gasoline per year, or nearly 1.3 million gallons over the life of the contract," according to the university.

Standard Solar will handle the construction. According to UMD, construction will be completed in the second quarter of 2011.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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