Rooftop Solar Panels Generate Clean Energy at Detention Center

Federal “Stimulus” dollars aimed at conserving energy or generating clean energy will save the county about $25,000 each year by decreasing the electric bill at the Queen Anne’s County’s Detention Center in Centreville.

Using a $283,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the county installed 216 solar panels on the flat roof of the detention center and installed high-efficiency heat pumps at the two county libraries and the sheriff’s office.  No county funds were required.

“Public safety buildings run 24/7 and it takes quite a lot of energy to keep the facility operating. The detention center has the highest electric bill of any county building,” said Warden Lamonte Cooke, who estimated the facility’s electric bill at about $100,000 annually. The 28,500-square-foot detention center houses up to 148 inmates, who are either being held while awaiting trial or serving sentences of less than 18 months.

Each municipality in Maryland was offered the grant monies based on each community’s population, explained Jeff Rank, of the county’s finance department, who worked to secure the funds. He said these 50kw Photovoltaic Solar Energy Systems are a viable alternative for businesses and homes in sunny locations because they generally pay for themselves in six to seven years.  But the site has to be void of shade for any shade on a panel turns that section off.

John Scarborough, of the county’s public works department, was also heavily involved in the project. “The nice thing is that after 20 years, these solar panels still operate at 80 percent efficiency,” he said. Furthermore, the panels which were installed last summer, weathered well during Hurricane Irene, Scarborough said.

Director of Public Works, Todd Mohn, said his department is now planning for a second phase which would help offset the costs of the detention center’s water heating system.

“These are all efforts to maintain fiscal responsibility and contain costs,” said Mohn. “We will see significant savings for the foreseeable future.”

In photo: County staff inspects the new solar panel system at the Queen Anne’s County Detention Center in Centreville which was funded through federal Stimulus dollars. From left: Warden Lamonte Cooke, John Scarborough and Todd Mohn of public works and Jeff Rank of the county’s finance office.