Renewable energy is obtained from sources that don’t run out such as hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, and solar. Renewable energy is becoming more popular as the technology improves and the cost comes down.
Solar photovoltaic systems use the sun’s energy to convert solar energy directly into electricity. Howard County government has completed various solar initiatives.
Local Solar Projects
In addition to past solar projects at Miller Library Branch, Worthington Elementary School, and the George Howard Building, nine projects will be implemented through Howard County’s 2020 Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Fully completed projects include the new Circuit Courthouse, Triple Creek Farm and the new Waterloo Fire Station. Projects under construction or planned include the Howard County Detention Center, the Ulman Building, the Scaggsville Public Safety Complex, Clear View Farm, East Columbia Library and East Columbia 50+ Center.
Solar Powered Poles
In September 2011, the County installed three solar power trackers atop existing light poles in the parking lot of the George Howard Building. These are Maryland’s first high-efficiency, small-footprint solar systems for electric vehicle charging.
The Solar Power Poles incorporate a GPS-based controller to follow the movement of the sun throughout the day and produce up to 30 percent more power than fixed panels. The panels, which can be retrofitted to most existing lighting poles, utilize existing wiring and require no ground space connections. Power produced from the solar panels is converted to AC power and fed back into the utility grid.
Geothermal energy, the energy stored in the earth, can be harnessed for heating buildings and water. Geothermal or ground source heat pump systems use pipes installed in the ground. Water or a mixture of water and antifreeze are circulated through the pipes to absorb heat from the surrounding soil. In hot weather, the process is reversed, cooling the house by using the ground as a heat sink.
In some areas of the USA, fields of wind power generate a lot of clean energy. In Maryland, much of the wind power discussion focuses on off-shore wind. There hasn’t been much wind power in Howard County so far. One project is the wind turbine at Ellicott Gardens
Ellicott Gardens, low-income one and two bedroom apartments owned and rented out by Howard County, were built to be energy efficient, keeping operating costs low. Completed in 2009, the apartment complex has a white roof that reflects heat, energy-saving windows and appliances, and low-flow plumbing fixtures. The main green attraction, though, is the wind turbine, that generates about 400 kwh of electricity per month.
Purchasing Renewable Energy
Howard County government purchases renewable energy through our group energy purchasing agreement. The state of Maryland Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Program requires electricity suppliers to meet a prescribed minimum portion of their retail electricity sales with various renewable energy sources.
Residents can encourage renewable energy by purchasing it through their electric company. BGE and Potomac Edison allow you to change your energy supplier within their system. The Maryland Public Service Commission has developed a very helpful website to compare energy plans, www.mdelectricchoice.com/shop/. Have your electric bill handy – you search by energy supplier and add your energy use estimate. You can filter your search by Renewable options.
Community Solar is the newest way to purchase renewable power. It allows you to purchase a share or subscription to a local solar project. You don’t even have to own a home to participate. Anyone who pays a BGE or Pepco utility bill is eligible. To find a list of Maryland community solar projects visit the non-profit Solar United Neighbors community solar website.