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UMD Solar Initiative Nears Completion, Adding To State’s Energy Projects

solar panelThe University of Maryland expects to exceed their renewable energy goals through the construction of three solar canopies. The Diamondback reports that the university received a $250,000 grant from the Maryland Energy Administration, which was then matched in full by the university.

According to The Diamondback UMD planned to generate 2.7 megawatts of solar energy by 2018. They are now predicting that these solar panels will allow them to produce 2.1729 megawatts. The panels will be fully installed by the end of the summer and operational by the end of the year. According to Sally DeLeon, manager of the university’s Sustainability Office, the project is part of the President’s Purchased Power Initiative. That initiative is in turn part of the Climate Action Plan, which aims to get the university to run on 100% renewable energy by 2020.

“It’s a big contributor to the university’s sustainability goals,” she said to The Diamondback. “Although it’s a small portion of our purchased electricity, it’s tangible, visible, on campus, people can connect to it and see it. I think that’s really important for engaging people in sustainability, telling the sustainability story and keeping people interested.”

As the country continues to see consumption of fossil-fuel producing agents, such as the 489,612 diesel vehiclespurchased every year, small initiatives like this may make a large impact. Susan Corry, of the university’s facilities management department, said in a statement to The Diamondback that solar panels are highly effective because they pack a big energy punch without taking up too much space.

“Solar of any kind takes a large physical footprint, because of the size and number of panels,” she said. “Those three parking garages that were chosen had the best exposure, not too much shading from nearby trees or adjacent buildings, and we had a large enough space where it was cost effective to put a larger system on those garages rather than some of the smaller garages.”

While there are small steps that industries can take to reduce their impact, like opting for recycled boxes and bags for shipping, many states are looking to implement more wide-scale policy changes. Maryland is among these states, as the Maryland Department of Transportation issues a proposal request for renewable energy initiatives. Lexology reports that the selected Master Services Agreement will design and operate renewable energy facilities for five years, with an optional extension.

But not all state energy initiatives are being met with praise. The Baltimore Sun reports that the state’s $1.4 billion off-shore wind energy project is causing conflict between developers and town governments, prompting state legislatures to step in. Paul Rich, director of project development for U.S. Wind, told The Baltimore Sun that he wants to push forward with the energy debate, moving Maryland in a more sustainable direction.

“We want that dialog to continue,” he said. “We’ve been engaged in discussing concerns from multiple interests for seven years.”

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