During my campaign for City Council, I thought of a great idea…then I was told it was already in the works! I take no credit for this idea, but I am happy to advocate for its immediate implementation and feel it is vital to Baltimore’s future.
Our public buildings (including city offices, schools, recreation centers, police and fire stations, etc.) use up a lot of energy and are in desperate need of many capital improvements. Employees complain about the decrepit conditions often. We’ve heard the horror stories about our schools and recreation centers having no air conditioning (causing children to miss classroom time), peeling paint, rats, roaches, old and clogged pipes, and lead in the water. We are told there is no money to improve these facilities, but that just means doing so is not a priority.
One way to address these ills and save money is to install solar panels on publicity-owned buildings. Funding is available through federal grants and incentives that can cover a significant portion of the initial investment.
Solar power has the potential to reduce electric bills by 60%.1 This is a significant savings that could be shifted to other needs, especially other capital items like those listed above, or redirected to other important, but underfunded, areas of the city budget.
Luckily, the city of Baltimore and other partners are working on this solution, though progress is slow. It is critical to keep the momentum going by encouraging companies to invest in this solar initiative, because it will eventually lower energy costs and start to enhance efficiency in city government. Our Mayor and other public officials need to champion this effort. It is critical to think about our energy needs on a large scale, think about how we can save money in the long run, and redirect savings into other efforts. Baltimore can be the model for this kind of out-of-the-box thinking, but it takes leadership now, not later.
1Equipment cost-savings estimates are based on the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) annual performance factor (APF) method for heat pumps (10CFR part 430). Estimates of annual solar energy production are calculated for a centrally located city in each DOE heating region, using National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) PVWatts, Version 1. found on www.lennox.com/solar-solutions/solar-calculator.asp