The Fire Chief Project: When solar power is about more than energy

Offsetting carbon emissions from diesel engines makes a strong sustainability statement

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About 740 photovoltaic panels are being installed at the Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant in Howard County, Md. – but the reason has little to do with generating power for the plant.

Instead, the purpose of the $1.5 million project is to offset carbon emissions from diesel generators being added to prevent wastewater spills such as the 20-million-gallon event that happened last year during Superstorm Sandy, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

County Executive Ken Ulman told the newspaper that the solar panels will generate only a small fraction of the power consumed by the plant, which is the fifth largest in the state.

The diesels are designed to keep future spills from happening even if utility power fails. They were chosen as the most reliable fail-safe after officials reviewed various options. “At Ulman’s urging, the county sought a way to mitigate the environmental impact of having to test the backup diesel burners weekly, as well as the instances when they are actually used – expected to be once or twice a year when storms knock out power,” the newspaper reported.

County officials say the solar panels will reduce the plant’s power bill by about $22,800 per year, not much more than a drop in the bucket for the facility, which treats 21 mgd.

The county is seeking a state grant to help cover the $8.1 million cost of the solar panels and diesel generators.

Publicly promoting investments made on behalf of sustainable operation helps drive home the point that clean-water plants and operators are guardians of the environment – a fact many members of the public do not yet grasp. That in turn helps further the aims of The Fire Chief Project:
· Raise clean-water operators to the status of the fire chief.
· Make kids grow up wanting to be clean-water operators.

Read more at: The Baltimore Sun


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