More than 4,000 solar modules are now helping to power Towson University’s main campus, thanks to a solar project completed during Campus Sustainability Month. The project is expected to produce nearly 2,000 megawatt hours of solar energy per year, or enough energy to power the University Union.
Electricity produced by the solar panels will go directly towards powering campus buildings. As a result, the university will require less power from off-campus sources, especially during times of peak demand when electricity costs are higher.
“Peak energy demand is highest on hottest days of the year, and that’s also when solar output is typically at its highest,” said Campus Energy Manager Steve Kolb. “Thus the solar panels reduce stress from the grid during key times, and reduce total electricity costs.”
The solar panels will produce varying amounts of energy based on the weather and time of day. On a sunny summer day, the panels could produce as much as 8-10% of the campus electrical load. The project is expected to save more than 23,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide over the next 20 years. The savings is equivalent to powering more than 3,000 homes for one year or removing nearly 5,000 cars from the road for one year.
The solar project was championed by a group of students who proposed the idea to President Emerita Maravene Loeschke. Following years of planning and procurement, the panels were constructed this summer on the roofs of the General Services building, Barton and Douglass Houses, and the University Union. Panels were also installed on a solar carport overtop the Union Garage. Construction involved raising the heavy, 3 by 6-foot panels onto rooftops using cranes, then wiring each panel together and tying it into the main electrical system.
The project’s completion comes during Campus Sustainability Month, held every October as an international celebration of campus sustainability in higher education. TU is celebrating the month with a range of events including recycling competitions and sustainability information tables. A Solar Talk being held from noon to 1 p.m. October 27 in the University Union Patuxent Lounge will explore how the campus solar panels work. An Environmental Coalition Social is also planned for 1 to 4 p.m. October 27th in the Paws Pavilion.
The solar project is being financed through a partnership with WGL Energy Systems.
Written by Pamela Gorsuch