Maryland’s first net zero energy school — Howard County Public Schools’ Wilde Lake Middle School — recently opened in Columbia, MD. To achieve net zero energy, the $33 million facility was designed to reduce energy usage, and uses renewable energy to produce enough energy to meet its annual consumption requirements.
The new school is nearly 30,000 square feet larger, expected to house 49% more students, and use 50% less energy than the old facility. It features two solar systems, energy-efficient architecture and insulation, a geothermal heat pump system, and natural daylighting. Construction of the school was aided by a $2.7 million grant from the Maryland Energy Administration.
With Howard County’s goals in mind, Pfister Energy designed, engineered, and constructed the school’s rooftop and ground mounted solar systems, placing each panel at optimum tilt for maximum sun absorption and output.
The roof holds 1,400 solar panels, and 600 panels collect sunlight from the ground, Scott Washington, director of school construction for the Howard County school system told The Baltimore Sun.
The new solar arrays are expected to produce over 826,000 kWh in the first year and more than 19 million kWh over a 25-year period. Wilde Lake Middle School’s solar plan was specifically designed to work with additional renewable and energy management solutions creating a “stackable energy” approach that will offset power consumed on-site and therefore, eliminate the need to buy electricity from the grid.
“Statistics show the buildings sector is the primary energy consumer in the U.S. With growing concerns about the stability of our energy grid, fluctuating energy prices, and the impact on our environment, targeting this sector for net zero energy design is the key to minimizing the nation’s energy requirements,” said William Cole, President of Pfister Energy of Baltimore. “We are honored to have been chosen to work on the Wilde Lake Middle School project and are eager to share their story to educate and inspire others.”