County government buildings powered by 100% renewable energy

·2 min read

Jul. 28—Frederick County government's buildings were for the first time powered entirely by renewable energy during the last year, County Executive Jan Gardner said Thursday.

The county's Division of Energy and Environment led the shift to renewable energy by relying on, and selling, solar power and purchasing wind energy credits.

During the fiscal year that ended June 30, the county generated $301,000 by selling solar renewable energy credits, Gardner said. The county paid $65,000 for wind energy.

"One of the major roles in the Division of Energy and Environment is to help reduce the amount of energy all of us use," Gardner said during a press briefing Thursday.

The Frederick County Council voted in December to established the Division of Energy and Environment as part of a $3.7 million climate plan from Gardner. The new division, formerly the Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources, includes the Department of Climate and Energy and the Department of Stormwater.

Gardner has said that her initiative will save the county money by reducing energy costs, help the county satisfy state requirements and help it reach its goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 — a benchmark set with other members of a regional council of governments.

Gardner on Thursday also outlined programs the county has formed to help households and businesses reduce their energy costs.

The Power Saver Retrofits program provides money to low- and middle-income individuals and families to help them make their homes more energy efficient.

To qualify, households must meet income requirements based on the number of people living there. Someone living by themselves must make $57,750 or less annually, while a four-person household can have an income of up to $82,500, according to the county executive's office.

Homeowners and small business owners have until Aug. 31 to join the Capital Area Solar and Electric Vehicle Co-op and reduce the cost of installing solar panels.

The Business Energy Saving Tune-ups (BEST) program provides grants to businesses that upgrade their lighting or HVAC and commercial refrigeration systems, Gardner said. Business owners can also use the grants to cover a customer's share of Potomac Edison's incentive program.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans can be used to upgrade commercial properties. Property owners pay the loans back through their property tax bill.

"If we don't make any changes by the end of the century, Frederick County can expect 100 days each year with temperatures reaching into the 90s," Gardner said. "The more hot days we have, the more energy we consume to cool our buildings, and that extreme weather also leads to flooding, crop damage — which certainly impacts our food supplies and the cost of food — poor air quality and the list goes on."

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan