Frederick County is beginning to realize the benefits of its project to build solar power arrays on vacant land at the county landfill, and we are excited at the glimpse of the future being offered here.
The solar array, which was dedicated this month, was built on just 14 acres at the landfill, but it can generate almost 2 megawatts of power a day. That will supply nearly 20 percent of the county’s general building power needs.
Such well-known county buildings as Winchester Hall and the C. Burr Artz Public Library will now get clean power from the sun. So will the libraries in Urbana and Emmitsburg and the Frederick Senior Center.
At the dedication ceremony, County Executive Jan Gardner also noted that the array will help power charging stations for the county’s electric TransIT buses, with 10 charging bays for five electric buses, an additional benefit toward reducing the county’s carbon footprint.
Earlier this year, the county signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Tesla, the company best known for building electric cars. The county will pay 6.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, which Gardner said could save $250,000 to $500,000 over 20 years.
That is not a great deal of money, but the real significance is in the switch from carbon-based power to clean power. That is what makes this project so appealing and exciting.
The project confirms that our county government and our community recognize the need to make changes in our world to combat man-made climate change. There is no single answer to combating climate change. We must all do our part, and it will take millions of small steps, many at the local level.
The Washington Post reported this past week that
major areas across the United States are nearing or have already crossed the significant threshold of a 2-degree Celsius increase in average temperatures.
Scientists have warned for several years that if the Earth’s temperature rises by 2 degrees Celsius, it will trigger catastrophic changes.
The Trump administration, which rejects the validity of man-made climate change science, will be of no help. In the absence of a national effort, state and local governments, as well as individual citizens, must get to work now.
Here is how the Frederick County project will work:
Mike Marschner, the deputy chief administrative officer managing the project, explained that Tesla did not build electric lines from the landfill to the various county buildings. Rather, the array will use virtual net metering, where Potomac Edison will take from the site onto the
local power grid.
“The idea is you can build large-scale facilities through virtual net metering [and] you can provide that solar
power to buildings,” Marschner said. “So you put it on the grid here, take it off elsewhere.”
We believe that this is just the first of many projects the county might undertake to move toward clean power.
We can envision a day when solar arrays are built above many county parking lots, including park-and-ride lots along the freeways. New technology is coming that will enable the county to efficiently install panels above the parking spaces, while continuing to park cars below.
County buildings, including schools, could have their own solar panels on their roofs generating power. The
solar power industry is coming up with new ideas all the time.
If local and state governments are aggressive, we might yet slow the speed of climate change, and save our planet.