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Shine and Get Solar

Reclamation plant solar

Ear­lier this sum­mer, Howard County com­pleted a 217 kW DC Solar PV sys­tem at the Lit­tle Patux­ent Water Recla­ma­tion Plant.

Reclamation plant solarThe pho­to­voltaic sys­tem com­prises two roof mounts (42.5 kW on the Dis­in­fec­tion Build­ing and 47.2kW on the Admin­is­tra­tion Build­ing) and two car­port struc­tures (127.4 kW). The project is part of the County’s elec­tri­cal pro­tec­tion sys­tem upgrade to safe­guard the Water Recla­ma­tion Plant from elec­tri­cal out­ages, such as the one that occurred dur­ing trop­i­cal storm Sandy. Since late May 2014 we have gen­er­ated 66,181 kWh. It is esti­mated that the solar pan­els will result in a yearly power cost sav­ings of $22,900.

Home­own­ers also have more oppor­tu­ni­ties to go solar than ever before. Solar energy options in Mary­land are avail­able every­where in the State and there are a lot of incen­tives that makes it more attrac­tive than ever. You will be reduc­ing your energy costs as well as con­tribut­ing to the State’s renew­able energy goals. Mary­land Renew­able Port­fo­lio Stan­dard (RPS) requires that 20 per­cent of Maryland’s Elec­tric­ity be gen­er­ated from renew­able energy sources by 2022, includ­ing 2 per­cent from solar energy.

There are many advan­tages to res­i­den­tial solar power:

  1. Save on your elec­tric­ity bills
  2. Increase your home value
  3. Take advan­tage of incentives
  4. Help to decrease your car­bon footprint
  5. Help to reduce U.S. depen­dence on for­eign sources of energy

Here is a list of some of the finan­cial incen­tives avail­able for Mary­land residents:


The Fed­eral gov­ern­ment is offer­ing the invest­ment Tax Credit – a tax­payer may claim a credit of up to 30% of the cost for a system

More info at http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=US37F&re=0&ee=0


The State of Mary­land offers a Clean Energy Pro­duc­tion Tax Credit for elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from solar and other clean energy sources.

More info at: http://energy.maryland.gov/Business/CleanEnergyTaxCredit.html

Res­i­den­tial Clean Energy Grant Program:

Fund­ing for res­i­den­tial solar sys­tems up to 20kW

More info at:



So why not take advan­tage of a pow­er­ful yet free energy source….the Sun. Live Green and get Solar!

Yeimary San­tos
Sep­tem­ber 2014

Peak Rewards

I just saved another $50 bucks this sum­mer by being in the PeakRe­wards pro­gram. That could have been $100 if I had cho­sen the high­est level in the pro­gram, but I like a good com­pro­mise so this works for me.

If you’re not famil­iar with the pro­gram, home­own­ers receive money towards their bill for allow­ing BGE to “cycle” their energy on days where there is high energy demand. Renters can be in the pro­gram with their landlord’s per­mis­sion. Energy com­pa­nies are try­ing to reduce the need for build­ing more power plants and reduce the chances of brown-outs and black-outs.

The one time last sum­mer that I actu­ally noticed a “cycling,” my air con­di­tioner would turn off for 15 min­utes then on for 15 min­utes and this went on for a few hours. The indoor tem­per­a­ture went up to 80 dur­ing that time but it was back to the nor­mal pro­grammed tem­per­a­ture by the time we went to sleep. Not bad at all.

I called BGE and was told that there are usu­ally 4–6 cycling events per sum­mer. These high demand times usu­ally hap­pen on week­days between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sum­mer of 2013 had only one “emer­gency” event. In non-emergency events, every­one is cycled at 50% (even if you sign up for a higher level) and emer­gency events are cycled at your cho­sen level (50%, 75%, or 100%).

I have been in the pro­gram for sev­eral years and I saw a big improve­ment this year in BGE’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Now you can get email alerts let­ting you know a cycling event is hap­pen­ing. Also, I think they are bet­ter about putting the info on the web­site. I found this very help­ful, rather than hav­ing to look at my pro­gram­ma­ble ther­mo­stat to see if it had the “SAVINGS” mes­sage that comes on dur­ing cycling events.

The free pro­gram­ma­ble ther­mo­stat that was installed when I signed up is actu­ally my favorite part of PeakRe­wards. You don’t have to get the ther­mo­stat, you can get an out­door switch instead. But I LOVE the one that I got. It is very easy to use and I’m sure I save a bunch of money by using it. MUCH bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous “pro­gram­ma­ble” ther­mo­stat that came with my heat pump. I found that one incom­pre­hen­si­ble. Now I use the easy touch screen to pro­gram day and night tem­per­a­tures and I change those dur­ing vaca­tions, etc. You can also sign up to be able to change your tem­per­a­tures remotely, but while I am a fan of the pro­gram, that’s one step beyond me.

PeakRe­wards is part of a larger energy effi­ciency effort called EmPOWER Mary­land. The goal of EmPOWER Mary­land is to reduce energy use 15% by 2015.

Other cool things about PeakRewards:

For more fun facts, here is a suc­cess story page of the program’s results.

Elissa Rei­neck
Novem­ber 2013

Mixed Emotions and Energy Supply Choice

I live in a small town­home com­mu­nity on a mostly quiet dead-end street. When a sales­per­son comes to my door, I feel aggra­vated and imposed upon, while simul­ta­né­ously feel­ing great respect for some­one who is try­ing to earn a liv­ing by going door –to-door.

A few months ago, my hus­band signed up with an elec­tric­ity sup­plier who had come to the door. As I had been intend­ing to change our sup­plier for some time, it forced me to spring in to action. He had got­ten a bet­ter price than we would have had we stayed with BGE… but I wanted more. I wanted to sup­port renew­able energy gen­er­a­tion. After sev­eral phone calls (one to can­cel the new sub­scrip­tion) and an online reg­is­tra­tion process, our energy sup­ply now comes from renew­able energy sources.

One resource that I just learned about that would have been very help­ful to us in our energy sup­ply deci­sion process is:


Take a look at this invalu­able infor­ma­tion col­lected all in one place! You’ve got all the rel­e­vant data nec­es­sary to make an informed deci­sion. Note: I work in the sus­tain­abil­ity field, and even I wasn’t aware that this resource was avail­able to Mary­land residents.

Reduc­ing our col­lec­tive car­bon foot­print starts with small indi­vid­ual choices. Make the choice to sup­port renew­able energy generation!

Laura A.T. Miller
Sep­tem­ber 2013

Get Paid to Save Energy

Are you inter­ested in get­ting money back from your elec­tric util­ity? Then please keep reading.

The heat wave that hit Cen­tral Mary­land in July is notable for a few rea­sons. One is the fact that we endured it with­out black­outs of any sig­nif­i­cance. Next, the sum­mer is not over yet. Finally, the expe­ri­ence reveals the impact of an elec­tric­ity mar­ket inno­va­tion known as “demand response,” which allows util­i­ties to pay their cus­tomers to scale back elec­tric­ity usage at crit­i­cal times.

As always, neces­sity is the mother of inven­tion. Demand response is a solu­tion to the lim­its posed by the very large (and very elderly) net­work of power gen­er­a­tion assets that sup­ply elec­tric­ity in the North­east and Mid­west U.S. The capac­ity to gen­er­ate and dis­trib­ute elec­tric­ity is flex­i­ble. This means that more (and more expen­sive) elec­tric pro­duc­tion capac­ity is put into oper­a­tion when demand for power reaches peak pro­por­tions. That hap­pens dur­ing heat waves when homes, offices, and stores crank up their air con­di­tion­ing all at the same time. While power demand cer­tainly spiked upward in July, cer­tain mea­sures are help­ing to min­i­mize the use of expen­sive power sup­ply and to avoid black­outs. These inno­va­tions are col­lec­tively labeled “demand response.”

Demand response is a mar­ket inno­va­tion that reverses the tra­di­tional rela­tion­ship between power util­i­ties and their con­sumers. These pro­grams allow util­i­ties to pay their cus­tomers to cut back on power con­sump­tion at cer­tain crit­i­cal times.

Cus­tomers vol­un­teer to par­tic­i­pate in these pro­grams. Res­i­den­tial par­tic­i­pants can have ther­mostats and cer­tain equip­ment auto­mat­i­cally scaled back by the util­ity.  Com­mer­cial and other large energy con­sumers have the option of acti­vat­ing their on-site power gen­er­a­tors in lieu of draw­ing power from the util­ity. These pro­grams pay the cus­tomer a fixed fee just for sign­ing up. The BGE Peak Rewards pro­gram offers $100 — $200 the first year and $50-$100 the next years depend­ing on what level you sign up for. Addi­tional value to the cus­tomer is the dol­lar sav­ings from reduced con­sump­tion at peak hours. These cut-back episodes last a few hours at a time, per­haps a half-dozen times dur­ing the sum­mer, and almost always on week­days dur­ing the late after­noon. In the BGE pro­gram, you also have to option to opt out of up to 2 cycling events per sum­mer. So if you are hav­ing a party or event that you need your air on full, you can sign up in advance to opt out of that day.

In a press release from the BGE web­site, the util­ity announced that Peak Rewards pro­gram load cur­tail­ment on Fri­day July 22 reduced power demand by a vol­ume equiv­a­lent to 600 megawatts, which is the capac­ity of a mid-sized power plant. The busi­ness propo­si­tion is sim­ple: it’s cheaper to pay cus­tomers to scale back their power than it is to build new power plants that only oper­ate dur­ing peak times.

Demand response pro­grams are increas­ingly imple­mented through­out the U.S.  In total, they could cut peak demand by up to 15 per­cent in the United States, sav­ing con­sumer dol­lars and reduc­ing green­house gas emis­sions. In our area, pro­gram par­tic­i­pants rep­re­sent reversible demand capac­ity equal to about eight per­cent of total peak power require­ments. The pri­mary hur­dle to the growth of demand response is lack of cus­tomer aware­ness and under­stand­ing. The sav­ings incen­tives are the main moti­va­tor, but the par­tic­i­pants also often feel that they are shar­ing the respon­si­bil­ity to off­set over­whelm­ing the sys­tem. Bet­ter to have a few days when you might be uncom­fort­able for a few hours than to have to deal with black­outs. Util­i­ties have very good web­sites for explain­ing their demand response and other energy-saving mea­sures. These are worth the time to visit. Here’s the BGE Peak Rewards page.

Christo­pher Russell
Energy Man­ager
August 2011

Where do you think it all comes from this powerful… Electricity, Electricity” – School House Rock

As you may remem­ber, last year we pub­lished a Howard County Cli­mate Action Plan which, among other things, had a com­pre­hen­sive green­house gas inven­tory which mea­sured the green­house gas emis­sions for our entire com­mu­nity. The inven­tory showed that the gas and elec­tric­ity res­i­dents use to power and heat/cool their homes cre­ates 1.1 mil­lion CO2e. Co2e is car­bon diox­ide equiv­a­lent. There are six green­house gasses each with a mea­sur­able effect. For con­sis­tency, we con­vert all of their effects into the equiv­a­lent co2 effect. For exam­ple, every met­ric ton of methane has a 25 met­ric ton co2 equiv­a­lent. That num­ber is over 25% of the County’s over­all “car­bon foot­print.”
With this in mind we cre­ated a free energy audit pro­gram for Howard County res­i­dents. I will start with a bit on why and what we hope to accom­plish then the logis­tics of how one applies and how we will select “win­ners”. So the first and most obvi­ous rea­son we cre­ated this pro­gram is because almost every home wastes energy. Out-dated appli­ances, no weather strip­ping, insuf­fi­cient insu­la­tion, leaky win­dows, the list is lit­er­ally end­less and we all have some­thing. The biggest bar­rier to home­own­ers mak­ing deci­sions to improve effi­ciency is knowl­edge. When one learns where the inef­fi­cien­cies are in his/her home and how quickly one he/she can “earn back” the money invested in upgrades many peo­ple go ahead and make the upgrades. This will improve the monthly expense for liv­ing here, improve com­fort, and reduce the County’s foot­print.
More impor­tantly to us, how­ever, is that we will be doing close to 1,700 audits through­out Howard County. When we are done we will have a com­pre­hen­sive cross sec­tion of every type of home in Howard County (more on how we will be mak­ing sure of that in a moment). So we will be able to develop fact­sheets and in the future you could say to us:
“I live in a town­house in Elkridge built in the 90’s” and we could say “we did 30 audits of homes like yours and the top three things they could do were x,y, and z. It cost about x and they got a y return on their investment.”

We will be select­ing “win­ners” through a lot­tery sys­tem but please don’t get too caught up in the word lot­tery. We will be tak­ing a “strat­i­fied sam­ple”. As peo­ple apply, their homes will be put into “buck­ets” (excuse the tech­ni­cal term). Buck­ets will con­sist of homes from like geog­ra­phy first (ele­men­tary school dis­trict) age of home, type of home, build­ing mate­r­ial, and size of home. We already have the sta­tis­tics on what the entirety of the hous­ing stock is for Howard County and we will pick ran­domly (com­puter gen­er­ated ran­dom num­bers to guar­an­tee “ran­dom­ness”) a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple for every bucket. One last thing, par­tic­i­pants must agree to some con­di­tions. First and fore­most, you must under­stand that the County owns the audit report. You, of course, will get the report and hope­fully imple­ment the find­ings, but it is our inten­tion to use the reports for edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties and while we will pro­tect your spe­cific name and address, we will likely be let­ting your neigh­bors know what the audi­tors found. Sec­ondly, once you are selected, you have 48 hours to get energy data for the last 12 months in your home. This is rel­a­tively easy to do – if you are in BGE’s area just go to their web­site, get an online account and you can get the energy data to enter into our sys­tem. To those of you apply­ing for an audit … good luck. The audits are free; it could save you money and help the envi­ron­ment. To find out about apply­ing, here’s the link.

JD Feld­mark

June 2011

Green Tip

Hi, I’m Howard and I’m here to provide you with green tips. Look for me throughout the site and check out my cool interactive games at the Kids Zone.