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Green Energy | April 1, 2011

Solar 101: Cub scouts & families learn the basics at Maryland Environmental Service

By Pat McIntyre & Richard Kilbourne

Director of Credit Risk, Constellation Energy & Business Development Manager, Constellation Energy

A couple of weeks ago we led a group of seven cub scouts and their families through a guided tour of the solar array featured on the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) grounds. During that time, we told them a bit about how solar energy works.

The first thing that we noted is that the energy is generated by the sun. The sunlight hits panels that turn the sunlight into electricity through a direct current. The direct current is then recycled into something else – alternating current – through an inverter. A revenue grade electric meter monitors how much energy the panels produce and the end result, of course, includes a reliable power source.

Solar power is the ultimate green energy, with no emissions, no waste materials. It’s available when energy is most needed, but not all solar power systems are the same.

The system that we looked at on the MES grounds produces 400,000 kWh of power annually, which is 50 percent of the electricity used on the property. As we told the families that day, this is enough to power 400 homes. Constellation Energy had worked with MES to install both the ground-mounted crystalline panels as well as the thin film system found on the roof. When we walked on the path that leads up to the gate to the ground-mounted panels, we showed them the petrified fossil that was found when we had started construction.

The scouts and their families were full of great questions, such as:

  • How much energy does one panel make? (Answer: A typical utility-grade solar panel produces around 180 watts in bright sunlight in the Mid-Atlantic);
  • Are solar panels too hot to touch on a warm day? (Answer: They don’t feel any more warm than a vehicle of the same color.); and
  • What happens if the power goes out? (Answer: All solar systems are interconnected to the grid and power still flows into the gird even if there are service level outages).

Overall, the trip to MES was a fun learning experience filled with enthusiasm and energy (no pun intended) from the kids. MES was a great partner to work with. We may look to provide similar sessions for other groups in the future, stay tuned!

Pat McIntyre is a Director of Credit Risk at Constellation Energy & Richard Kilbourne is a Business Development Manager at Constellation Energy.

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