TU’s first solar project complete

By Pam Gorsuch on October 28, 2016

More than 4,000 panels are finished in time for Campus Sustainability Month; panels generate enough electricity to power the University Union

Solar panels on the rooftops of Barton and Douglass Houses.
Solar panels on the rooftops of Barton and Douglass Houses.

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 eight to 10 percent 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 — led by Drew Voigt and Samantha Figueroa — 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, three-by-six-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 celebrated the month with a range of events including recycling competitions and sustainability information tables. 

The solar project is being financed through a partnership with WGL Energy Systems.

In other “green” news, TU received a BGE Green Grant as part of a program that awarded $300,000 to 52 local organizations. TU will be using its grant on dual projects: continuing the Glen Arboretum restoration and exploring environmental issues at the SciTech Student Learning Lab.