Image of Residential Solar Panels in Baltimore

Small Scale Renewables

In this section:
  1. Benefits
  2. Renewable energy sources
    1. Solar
    2. Wind
    3. Domestic Geothermal
  3. Resources

While a major first step to reducing energy resource demand is conserving energy use, we can also reduce our demands by using renewable energy sources instead of finite resources like fossil fuels.

A clean energy revolution is taking place across America, underscored by the steady expansion of the U.S. renewable energy sector.  -Energy.gov

In recent years, you may have noticed more and more Baltimore businesses installing renewable energy systems on their properties. Have you seen the Science Center’s new solar array shading their parking lot?

Solar Arrays shade the parking lot at the Science Center in Baltimore. Source: Megan Griffith
Solar Arrays shade the parking lot at the Science Center in Baltimore. Source: Megan Griffith

You may not know, however, that using renewable energy to power your residential property can be just as easy and produce a number of benefits. Baltimore’s new Zoning Code rewrite, fortunately, has included language to facilitate permitting renewable energy generation, such as the “community-based renewable energy system.”

There are a number of benefits to using renewable energy on your property, only a few of which are explained below:

FINANCIAL INCENTIVES: In addition to a number of federal and state incentive programs, renewable energy sources offer lasting financial benefits. In addition to the money saved due to reduced energy cost, renewable energy sources will increase your resiliency to rising and unpredictable heating and cooling costs. If you can tie your energy generation to the “grid,” you may also be able to increase your savings by “selling” your energy back to the utility provider.

SELF-SUFFICIENCY: As we prepare for a changing climate, we must also prepare for potential power outages due to heavy storm events. While the City is proactively addressing energy system vulnerabilities, energy loss may still occur. Generating your own electricity will reduce your risk of losing power, saving you money that would otherwise be lost due to spoiled food, loss of wages, or other inconveniences.

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Renewables will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in addition to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. This protects precious non-renewable resources and can help to reduce the pollution and degradation of our planet.

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Renewable Energy Sources

Samples of Small Scale Renewable Energy Sources that may be appropriate for property owners in Baltimore include solar, wind, and geothermal power; and new, innovative energy sources are being tested every day.

SOLAR

The sun’s energy is the cleanest, most abundant energy source on our planet. Solar energy is quickly catching up to fossil fuels in terms of kilowatts generated. And, with a number of financial incentive programs, it’s becoming more affordable every day.

Solar energy can be used in a number of ways. First, you may be most familiar with SOLAR PANELS, also called photovoltaic (PV) panels. While the cost of installing PV panels will eventually pay for itself through energy savings, it may take a few years. Rebate programs and tax incentives make it more affordable.

SOLAR THERMAL describes the process of preheating our hot water with the sun through cells installed on our roofs. The cost of installation of a solar thermal system pays for itself in just a few years.

Flat roofs, which are typical of many Baltimore rowhomes, lend themselves to “harvesting” solar energy (this is why many big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Target are installing solar panels on their roofs).

Further Reading:

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WIND

Wind power is another clean, renewable technology. Though it is more commonly used in Europe than in the United States,  more wind projects have been showing up in recent years. In 2013, Governor O’Malley passed the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act. Additionally, Baltimore’s new zoning code has language to permit renewable energy generation such as wind turbines.

New wind turbines are quieter and slower than older technology, making them less of a hazard for birds and bats and more reasonable for urban areas.

NO/LOW COST!* If installing an on-site wind turbine is not an option, Maryland residents also have the option of choosing an energy company that uses wind energy, like Clean Currents.

*Depending on your current energy bill, choosing a specific energy supply may be an cost of only a small percentage of your existing costs.

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DOMESTIC GEOTHERMAL

The ground beneath us, in both urban and suburban areas, stays around 50 degrees Fahrenheit year round. A geothermal heat pump, or ground source heat pump (GSHP) system harnesses this heat (called a ‘heat source’ in the winter or a ‘heat sink’ in the summer) to  reduce the energy needed to heat and cool your home or facility. The image below illustrates how air is moved to adjust temperature.

Geothermal flow image
Source: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/hydropower-geothermal/4331401

Because geothermal requires access to the ground below the earth’s surface, it may not be reasonable for rowhomes; nor may it be reasonable for all existing properties. However, new construction projects, or residents with more property, may find this to be an option. During their recent reconstruction project, Baltimore City’s Cylburn Arboretum installed a geothermal heating and cooling system, among other sustainability features, on their property.

Sign Posted at Cylburn Arboretum showing how the geothermal system works. Source: Megan Griffith
Sign Posted at Cylburn Arboretum showing how the geothermal system works. Source: Megan Griffith

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More Great Resources:
Financial Resources:

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