March 28, 2011

University of Maryland Eastern Shore Activates a 2.2 MW Solar Farm

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore today celebrated the activation of a 2.2 megawatt solar-energy facility on the land-grant institution's campus.

The 7,800-panel "solar farm" occupies 17 acres and is the largest concentration of photovoltaic modules on one site in Maryland, according to university officials and SunEdison, the company that built and will operate the facility.

Located on university-owned land adjacent to Tom Nichols Road off Maryland Rt. 388 (West Post Office Road), the solar farm will enable UMES to reduce its energy bills over the next 20 years.

Attending today's activation event were UMES President Thelma B. Thompson, University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan and local and state dignitaries.

The solar farm is projected to produce more than 3.3 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy in the first year alone. Over the two decades the panels will operate, they should produce more than 61 million kWh of energy -- roughly enough to power more than 5,700 homes for one year.

Thompson, who recently announced her plans to retire, said the solar farm is an example of UMES' commitment to developing public-private partnerships.

"UMES is proud to be on the cutting edge of setting an example in alternative energy production here on the Eastern Shore," Dr. Thompson said. "We encourage others to join us."

The solar farm was made possible through a strategic service agreement between SunEdison and UMES. SunEdison financed and built the solar farm at no cost to UMES or the state of Maryland. In return, UMES will purchase the power produced from the solar farm at long-term predictable rates to offset the university's demand from the energy grid.

Kirwan described the UMES-SunEdison partnership as mutually beneficial since the state had no upfront investment.  "Perhaps most importantly, the people of Maryland will reap the enormous benefit of having literally millions of pounds of pollutants not released into the atmosphere as this power is generated," Kirwan said.

Two years ago, UMES converted one of its dormitories to geothermal energy and just recently learned a newly renovated classroom building qualified for a gold certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council.

According to SunEdison, the environmental attributes associated with the UMES solar farm is estimated to abate more than 121 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the initial 20 years of production; the equivalent of removing more than 11,800 cars off the road for one year.

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