Frederick County offers grants to install energy-saving systems -- Gazette.Net







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David Barrow, 55, of Myersville doesn’t worry too much about utility bills.

Before Barrow built his nearly 5,000-square-foot home in 1995, he found ways to make his house more energy efficient, including positioning it south for the solar passive-heating advantage.

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But he didn’t stop there.

By 2011, Barrow had installed several energy-saving systems, including a geothermal heating system and 16.9 kilowatt solar array. The result is a combined utility bill of about $700 a year.

“And every year we are getting [our bill] a little lower...,” he said.

Prior to installing the panels and geothermal system, Barrow said his utility bill came to about $7,000 annually.

Now, Barrow is hoping to bring his knowledge of energy efficiency to his neighbors.

On Jan. 14, the town of Myersville and the Villages of Urbana were named as the pilot communities selected for the Solarize Frederick County campaign.

The special initiative of the Frederick County government’s Green Homes Challenge aims to increase the number of solar photovoltaic and solar hot-water system installations in the county through volume purchasing and incentive grants.

It is expected to launch in March and will run through the end of the year.

As part of that effort, volunteers in both communities will lead educational and marketing efforts for the program.

“[Solarize Frederick County] is a way to support the growing clean energy field and ensure energy security,” said Lisa Orr, coordinator of the Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources.

After submitting an application to the program and allowing a site visit, the pilot communities were selected in December by a panel made up of two county “green ambassadors” and Orr.

Green ambassadors are volunteer leaders committed to motivating others to become more energy efficient.

Volunteers from both Myersville and Urbana will come together to develop a request for proposals for solar contractors and to evaluate those proposals.

Myersville will take the lead, issuing the request and making the final contractor selections.

“We’re certainly excited to be selected as one of the co-pilots of the projects,” said Bradford Dyjak, Myersville town planner and zoning administrator. “It fits within the town’s goal to create a more self-reliant future for our residents.”

Dyjak said the town is working on a plan to engage residents in the program, which includes informational meetings. The first was to be held today in conjunction with a parks and recreation meeting at 7 p.m. at the town’s office at 301 Main St.

Program organizers aim to install at least 30 solar hot-water systems and 30 solar photovoltaic systems by the end of the year.

The price of the system depends on a number of factors, Orr said.

For example, solar photovoltaics can range from $13,000 to $39,000 to install, he said.

Residents who purchase systems through Solarize Frederick County can receive incentive grants of $750 or $1,000 for hot-water systems, with grants of $2,000 or $2,500 available for photovoltaic systems.

The grants are in addition to an existing $1,000-state grant and a 30 percent federal tax credit, Orr said.

“We saw it as a win-win for residents,” Dyjak said.

Higher incentives will be granted to households that are already Certified Power Savers, meaning they have registered with the county’s Green Homes Challenge, performed an energy audit on their homes and implemented energy-saving initiatives.

Currently, there are 73 homes in the county that are certified, Orr said.

Solarize Frederick County is funded by a Climate Showcase Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials at the Villages of Urbana said they also plan to hold informational meetings for residents and send reminders about the program through their weekly electronic newsletter.

“We already have several of our residents that are interested in the program,” said Julie Virnelson, assistant manager of the development.

“We’re about creating a community that is going to be here for a very long time, and part of that is making it more sustainable and decreasing our carbon footprint. This is the way to do it,” she said.

The community will hold its first meeting on Feb. 27 at the Anthony Natelli Community Center, at 9023 Harris St.