15 May 2012

(Solar) Power Play in the Next American City

Michael Cornell, CA Board Member from River Hill and sometimes guest blogger, has a nice piece over at HoCoRising about the recently installed solar panels adjacent to the River Hill Pool and Neighborhood Center.  It’s a nice post.  I encourage everyone to read it.

But it made me think.  I applaud CA’s foray into harnessing the power of the sun; however, I think it’s time for CA to go big on this project.  I believe that CA should push to cover every swimming pool pump house and shade structure (gazebo, pergola, trellis; whatever you want to call them) with solar panels.  In addition, the vast, southern wall of the Columbia Swim Center should get the photovoltaic treatment too.

I single out CA’s 23 pools for a specific reason: they are open about three months a year.  The remaining nine months, the power generated at each of these locations would exceed the power used, thereby generating utility credits. 

Understanding CA’s status as a non-profit, they would have to spend these credits.  Another model would be to allow CA to take out a bond, utilizing the power generated from the panels from Labor Day to Memorial Day as payment on the bond, a solar bond.  Given a 20-30 lifespan of the panels, this could represent some significant funds available for reinvesting in the pools and other infrastructure.  It could also offset/minimize the cost of operation during the summer months.

Now, I am sure that this is not a completely new idea.  I believe CA has taken a look at their rooftops and assessed their solar potential.  If CA could efficiently generate power from the Talbott Springs Pool rooftop, Alex Hekimian would be writing blog posts too.  Very few sites are ideal, and there are some barriers to work through to get these sites upgraded.

There may also be some legal/regulatory hoops to jump through.  Legislation may have to be written to allow non-profits to enter into bond agreements of this structure.  The legalese surrounding the triple-verification (CA, the bond holder, and the power company) of the power meter at each pool would be a significant undertaking itself.  But taken as a whole, this may be the type of 21st century economic dynamic worth doing. hocoblogs@@@


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BJS said...

I'd love to see CA go big on this. Maryland uses relatively dirty electricity, making plug-in vehicles and equipment less enviro-friendly than it should be. My best friend has a Chevy Volt, and even in the Swan Point HOA's backward board members weren't blocking him from using the plug-in capability at all, it'd just be using more coal-source power in place of gas. If CA could offset or even outpace its electricity usage with solar, I'd be quite pleased. What would happen with the credits? Considering that the mentioned sites are CA membership facilities, I would hope any financial offsets would apply to CA membership operations, not general CA functions like CPRA.

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