The campuses of the Community College of Baltimore County will host an array of solar panels capable of supplying 27 percent of the college's electricity needs by the end of this year.
CCBC and Constellation, a subsidiary of Exelon, the parent company of Baltimore Gas and Electric, announced the start of construction on the project Tuesday. The 5.1 megawatt project is expected to generate 6.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, roughly the amount needed to power about 540 homes.
The 16,500 solar panels will be installed on carports across the campus, covering more than 1,400 parking spaces across the college's three main campuses in Dundalk, Essex and Catonsville. Constellation will add 10 electric vehicle charging stations as part of the project.
"This solar power system supports our mission of promoting sustainable initiatives on campus and educating and engaging students in environmentally sound practices," said CCBC President Sandra L. Kurtinitis in a statement. "An important added benefit is the ability to better manage our energy costs."
The project is intended to educate students on renewable energy, CCBC and Constellation officials said. Colleges including the University of Delaware, Colorado State University and Princeton University have installed solar generation in recent years. In 2010, the University System of Maryland signed 20-year agreements to buy about 15 percent of its electricity from solar and wind sources.
"This zero-emissions system will allow the college to demonstrate the viability of clean energy resources and provide charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles to students, faculty and our local community," said Gary Fromer, the senior vice president of distributed energy for Constellation.
Constellation will own and operate the solar power system, while CCBC will purchase the energy it generates under a 20-year agreement. Such arrangements, as well as solar leases, have become more common in recent years.
The company has completed 28.5 megawatts of solar projects in Maryland and expects to have an additional 30 megawatts online by the end of this year.
There are 215 megawatts of solar energy generation capacity in Maryland, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That generation includes a 16.1 megawatt array at Mount St. Mary's University in Frederick County installed in 2012, and the 20 megawatt Maryland Solar Farm in Hagerstown, also completed in 2012.