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Solar Farm at the Mount - A Student's View

Solar Panels Powering the ARCC
Hey everyone! Even though it’s been a while since my last post, I hope you’ve all been carefully watching the progress of the solar farm! And in case you haven’t heard, I have fantastic news to share. The portion of the farm that was designed to power the ARCC and the wastewater treatment plant by the pond is up and running! Right on schedule! Assuming that the temperature for the day is on par with the season average, the ARCC could receive up to 90 percent of its daily energy needs from the panels! Of course, the percentage varies depending on cloud cover and air conditioning use, for example. The next time you’re hitting the gym, the pool, or taking a run around the track, think of how the lights, fans, machines, and air conditioning are all being powered by the sun.

Has anyone else noticed the changes on the other side of campus? Before winter break, metal framing dotted the fields around the ARCC, but these skeletal structures were only a hint of what we could expect this semester…

Newly constructed solar panels

As I drove back to the Mount the third week of January, I was so surprised to see how much progress had been made. The metal frames were finally topped with the photovoltaic panels. Of course I had seen pictures of these panels, but seeing them in person for the first time was such an eye-opening experience!

This is probably a silly example, but this whole process feels like baking. Just hear me out! I’m a novice in the kitchen, so I often need a picture to guide me to my final creation. Even so, things still turn out as a surprise – sometimes worse, sometimes better than I expected. And sometimes it turns out MUCH better than I ever envisioned (like the time I made chocolate dipped figs, for example).

The way I feel about a great recipe is a small comparison to how I feel about the solar farm – it’s much more than what I ever expected. I had Google and press-releases to guide me along the way as I’ve covered the project, but nothing quite compares to seeing the farm enter this major phase of construction. The sheer scale of the Mount project now seems so much more tangible to me.

While not yet operational, everything seems to be falling into place despite a slow and rainy start. The completion date is targeted for this coming April. Check back soon for more details, and don’t forget to keep an eye on the construction for yourself, too!

November 14th started out as a normal day. I woke up late, ran to class, stopped by Patriot for lunch… and then I ran into a super hero! Maybe it wasn’t such a normal day after all.  

I probably looked just as shocked as everyone else in Patriot during the afternoon rush. Students, faculty, and employees all stopped and stared in the shining presence of Solar Man. His highlighter-yellow super suit and his school-spirited Mount track shorts caught everyone’s attention. We all wanted to know, what was his real identity? Solar Man

Patrolling Patriot Hall silently, Solar Man is a model citizen and didn’t come to visit the Mount empty handed. He was busy handing out solar key chains and fact cards about our solar farm project. This project seemed close to his heart, and he wanted to spread the word!

Now, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity for an interview. It would be the perfect story for my blog!  As I stood in the wrap line, I saw Solar Man approaching. This was my chance!Solar Man

“Solar Man, can I ask you a few questions?” I was channeling my inner Lois Lane.

“Sure,” he answered, his voice as deep as Christian Bale’s Batman.

As he dashed away with epic flourish, Solar Man tossed me a key chain and I knew I had just landed an exclusive. We met outside the Bookstore later where I conducted the interview.

Teresa: How did you become Solar Man?

Solar Man: I always knew I was destined to help mankind. When I was a kid, my first role model was Captain Planet. I wanted to be just like him! I have become the hero I am today because of clean renewable energy … and food from Patriot Hall.

T: What is your super power?Solar Man and Teresa Fredericks

S: I turn sunlight into electricity and I encourage people not to be wasteful! Don’t abuse, reuse!

T: What is your Mission?

S: My mission has always been to remind people that the sun is full of energy. All you have to do is feel its heat on a bright sunny day… lots of power!

T: Why are you here at the Mount?

S: I felt called to the Mount to remind everyone that we are building a solar farm. It will be great for the environment and great for the school! We are going to produce 17.4 megawatts of power and it’s going to be clean. I also need to remind people that as Solar Man I treat the earth as my friend. I want to see the earth treated well by everyone else, too, and it means so much that the Mount recycles and uses geothermal energy already to help the planet!

T: How can people find you if they need you?Solar Man giving out a keychain

S: If you ever need me, just look up at the sun, I’m never too far away… just make sure you don’t look directly into the sun, it’s not good for your eyes. Even I try to wear my shades as often as I can! 

Afterwards, he quickly bounded away in the direction of the library. To this day I haven’t figured out Solar Man’s real identity. But the word around campus is that he may return one day… until that day comes, we all need to do our part and make Solar Man proud!

Time for some current events in the world of green energy!

A study has recently been released detailing a new perspective on the global warming debate. Richard Muller, a prominent skeptic who conducted research through the funding of the Koch Foundation, has now asserted in the Wall Street Journal that “global warming is real.”

Given the conservative nature of the oil-based Koch Foundation and the WSJ, it is somewhat surprising that Muller came to such a candid conclusion. His findings have been addressed by the mainstream media like the Washington Post and the Daily Show. Though Muller has refrained from addressing the reason for climate change, he has not ruled out the possibility that human action may be a cause.

Though scientists don’t yet agree if humans play a role in global warming, should we just wait around until a conclusion is reached? Even if we aren’t a direct cause, we can still be proactive and invest in sustainable energy. Oil reserves and natural gas fields will one day be depleted at our current rate of consumption, but renewable resources will always be available to us. So whether we switch to solar, wind, or geothermal power to reduce our carbon footprint or invest in renewable energy to sustain our future infrastructure, this change will be a win-win situation either way!

The Mount has taken a stand for renewable energy through its solar farm project. We are investing in the future by contributing to a movement of environmental responsibility at a state and national level. That’s something to be proud of!

Teresa Fredericks, the SGA executive board and Dean Bushman at the Solar FarmAs of September 29, the official press-release photo for the Constellation Energy Solar Project has finally taken place. This event means that I can officially begin blogging about construction!

The Constellation Energy Solar Project is officially underway! In case you haven’t heard through the grapevine already, this project is quite historic – our solar farm will be the largest on any college campus to date in both Maryland and the entire country… well, at least for the moment! 100 acres have been allotted from university property at the far end of College Lane, and though it may be a muddy mess of puddles at the moment, by the end of next year it will be a fully functioning solar farm that, using photovoltaic power, will help to power the PNC Sports Complex. Of the 17.4 megawatts produced by the farm, our campus and sports arena will receive approximately 1.3 megawatts; the remaining electricity will be sent to the University of Maryland. This project is all a part of Maryland’s Generating Clean Horizons Initiative which was introduced in early 2009. As an advocate of green energy myself, being involved with this initiative is really important to me as both a Mount student and Maryland resident.

Getting involved with this blog has prompted many people to ask me if I am studying to be a science major, but as it stands I’m actually studying Fine Arts and Sociology. No matter what your major or profession or interests, I really think that green energy is something that everyone can get excited about because alternative energy is something crucial to future sustainability – and that really is something that affects all of us! It’s my goal with this blog to encourage everyone to get excited about this project, and I plan to share updates and tidbits about the project as it progresses throughout the year, so check back frequently!

Teresa Fredericks

Apr 2012  
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