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Published on April 26th, 2010 | by Tina Casey


Marylanders Take Leap of Faith into Nation's First Community-Initiated Solar Installation

April 26th, 2010 by  

Nation's first community-initiated solar power installation will be in University Park, MarylandA tree lined community has come up with a solar energy solution that could serve as a model for others.  In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind arrangement, a group of individuals in University Park, Maryland have established a limited liability corporation that will use a local church as the site of a new distributed solar power installation.  The plan mirrors a much larger distributed solar energy program embarked upon last year by Duke Energy, one of the largest utility companies in the U.S.


University Park Solar LLC will reduce the community’s reliance on coal-generated electricity and support green jobs in the U.S. (the solar panels are made in the U.S. by solar energy pioneer Sharp).  Like Duke Energy, University Solar sees a great benefit in distributed solar power.  By becoming part of the everyday landscape of community life, solar energy makes the leap from exotic newcomer to just another reliable, dependable source of electrical power.

Green Jobs and Community-Initiated Solar Installations

University Solar will bring green jobs into the community for a solar installation that otherwise would not have existed.  Aside from the affordability factor, opportunities for individual solar installations are limited in leafy communities like University Park.  University Solar was able to leap both obstacles by pooling money from individuals and “pooling” a central site for the installation with suitable sun exposure.  In addition, University Solar chose Standard Solar for the installation, and the company will procure the solar panels from a Tennessee solar factory owned by solar energy pioneer Sharp.  One can almost smell the synergycooking: University Park gets to wean itself from the coal-generated power supplied by local utility Pepco, and the U.S. gets more green jobs that help make coal-producing states less reliant on the coal economy.

The University Park Solar Installation

The solar panels will be installed at the Church of the Brethren, which Standard Solar helped identify as a suitable site.  The 81 panels will generate 230 watts each or about 28,000 kilowatt hours per year, which is most of the church’s energy consumption.  Revenue from the installation will come from sales of the electricity, and from sales of Renewable Energy Certificates.  That will be plowed back into maintaining the facility and paying operating costs such as insurance, as well as providing a return to the LLC members.

Image: Stained glass window by MAMJODH on flickr.com. 


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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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