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Montgomery County Parks Powers Up with Solar Fields

As residents all around the County were preparing for Memorial Day Weekend, which serves as the unofficial start of the summer sun season, Montgomery County Parks held a ceremony to “power up” what has been called the largest parkside solar project in the National Capital Region.

Montgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, announced the completion of two solar fields. The solar arrays, located at South Germantown Recreational Park and Rock Creek Regional Park, consist of more than 7,000 ground mounted solar panels. The solar energy produced will support the energy needs of more than 35 Montgomery Parks sites, lowering utility bills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while also contributing to smart, clean, and resilient energy region-wide.

Montgomery Parks held a “switching on” ceremony at South Germantown Recreational Park on Wednesday, May 23 to officially turn on the system. Although, in reality, it has been powering parks’ facilities in the County since March.

The solar field at South Germantown Recreational Park is located below the Archery Field.

“The Parks Department is all about being green,” Mike Riley, Director of Montgomery Parks. “Our mission is twofold, it is the provision of all these great recreational amenities that people get to enjoy, recreate and play sports on, and then there is the conservation aspect of our mission. The conservation of natural resources is really what this project is about, it is about generating clean energy for the parks.”

“Together between the two sites generate up to 3.5 million kilowatt hours of solar electricity annually, which offsets over 2,500 tons of greenhouse gases annually. This offset is equal to the CO2 that would be generated by an estimated 400 American homes in a typical year,” said Riley.

Live data collection began in March, and the solar fields have already produced measurements equivalent to the following benefits; 413 barrels of oil have been eliminated, and 983,000 pounds of carbon have been offset, according to a release by Montgomery Parks.

The solar fields are being managed through a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with Standard Solar Inc., which will own, operate and maintain the systems. The two fields were built simultaneously using local contractors and labor, creating jobs in Montgomery County.

“This partnership was made possible through a partnership with Standard Solar which allows us to generate solar energy without any upfront costs, and will also result in significant savings in our utility bill which is estimated to be about $60,000 on an annual basis,” said Riley.

“I am truly happy to outside on a beautiful day in May,” said Tony Clifford, chief development officer with the Rockville-based Standard Solar, “and to be dedicating what I think is the largest parksided solar system in the National Capital Region, and probably in the state of Maryland.

The solar revolution in this country is being led at the state and local level. I want to congratulate Montgomery Parks and MN-CPPPC and the Maryland Energy Administration for taking leadership at the state and local levels in going solar.”

Clifford said the electricity generated with the solar array would be equal to the carbon sequestered by 3,000 acres of forest.

“This just represents one piece of a much bigger picture of our effort to not only be more environmentally sustainable but also to save money and do more with less. I am really proud of the work that the staff has done on this,” said Casey Anderson, the Chairman of the Montgomery County Planning Board.


Top: Montgomery Parks Director Mike Riley and Casey Anderson, the chairman of the Planning Board in front of the big switch at the ceremony held in South Germantown Regional Park on Wednesday, May 23.

Next: Mike Riley with the solar field at South Germantown Park in the background.

Next: Montgomery Parks Division Chief Jim Poore who shepherded the solar field project from idea to reality in Montgomery County.

Next: The solar field at South Germantown Recreational Park.

Next: Anderson and Riley were joined by state delegates Del. Charles E. Barkley (D-39), Del. David V. Fraser-Hidalgo (D-15), and Del. Kirill Reznik (D-39) as they flipped the switch to power up the big board turning on lights and music to symbolize the power being on.

Photos by Germantown Pulse.

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