Sunny Days at AFF and Solar Energy

By Lindsay Renner, AFF Communications Coordinator

As the construction of the first portion of the Potomac Watershed Study Center nears completion, one thing is readily apparent: we’ve come a long, long way but there is still much to be done! Mere weeks ago, the solar panels that will eventually come to power the entire complex were installed on the roof of the Grass Day-Use building. This is but one small step on the path to completing the Living Building Challenge© and thus continuing on the path of innovation that has marked nearly 60 years of tradition here at the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

On September 3rd, there was an event at the farm that featured panelists well-versed in solar energy, along with its uses, benefits, and how it can be a reality for everyone, even private homeowners. Although there are many things that will separate the PWSC from other green buildings, its reliance on solar energy as its sole source of power is, to my mind, perhaps what sets it apart the most. It’s impossible to deny that the world’s resources are facing rapid depletion, and that irresponsible building practices play a huge role in unnecessarily high energy consumption. Marked changes in the way we approach the design and construction process are the only way to combat this.

solar outside
When he was discussing the building construction, the PSWC project manager, Brandon Gamble of Facchina Construction, spoke of how the solar panels will allow the building to create its own energy and use only that. That, to me, is what brings home the point that this building will truly be “living.” They’re silent and consistent, as Beth Kennedy of Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative pointed out, and they don’t produce any greenhouse gases and are incredibly low maintenance.

solar wiring inside
By 2020, as representatives from the Maryland Energy Administration pointed out, the state goal is to ensure that two percent of all energy is solar. With that in mind, it only makes sense that AFF spearheads the effort to have buildings powered entirely by solar energy. If we truly care about the preservation of the environment and natural resources, this is the least that we can do. Every day, we connect people to the land around them: our newest buildings, in turn, should be just as much a part of the land as the trees and grass and other features, and these panels are just one step down that road.