AACC Hopes to Reduce Carbon Footprint with Solar-Covered Carport
Anne Arundel Community College officials say the carport will save $350,000 in electricity costs for the campus over the next 15 years.
As students arrive for classes each day at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC), many head to the back parking lot in hopes of scoring a coveted spot under the solar carport.
Earlier this year, the community college completed the 3,136-solar panel project that is expected to save the campus $350,000 in electricity costs over the next 15 years. It is the largest solar-covered carport in Maryland and one of the largest on the East Coast, according to college officials.
“We see this as an important step forward in our commitment to cost-effective renewable energy,” said Dr. Martha A. Smith, AACC president. “This system will provide about 5 percent of the college’s total electrical need and we are excited to continue moving in this direction.”
The idea for the carport came about when the college applied to be a part of Project Sunburst, which is a Maryland Energy Administration project using American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grants for construction of solar projects on public buildings.
“The college originally applied for a $500,000 grant, which was bumped up to $750,000 when another project dropped out,” said Maury Chaput, executive director of administrative services at the community college. Chaput is also the idea person behind the project.
Standard Solar of Rockville installed the American-made solar panels. The cost of the project was covered with the federal stimulus funds and with the balance of funding from Washington Gas Energy Services Inc. The college has a power purchase agreement where Washington Gas owns and operates the solar system and the college then buys its electricity from that company at a rate of 8.8 cents per kilowatt-hour.
“That price is fixed for the next 15 years and is well below market value,” Chaput said. “There are also the intangibles. We are reducing our carbon footprint. We are using a renewable resource.”
Scott Wiater, president of Standard Solar added, “AACC’s carport installation is another example of how colleges and universities are taking critical steps towards energy independence. As a Maryland-based company, we are pleased to be helping Project Sunburst partners in our own backyard harness the power of the sun.
The solar carport started saving the college money in April when installation was completed. As part of the package, all science faculty have access to a web-based monitoring system that they in turn can use in their classes, Chaput added.