by Dan Rudt

Maryland Solar Installation Applications to Double this Year

Margie Hyslop writes in the October 7 Gazette that the state Public Service Commission says it has received 1,550 applications so far this year from Marylanders seeking to certify their homes or businesses as solar renewable energy facilities. At that rate, applications are expected to double the 922 received last year. Montgomery County has more solar power installations than any other jurisdiction in the state. Hyslop says Kevin Lucas of the Maryland Energy Administration estimates 150 to 200 of Maryland’s 1,700 solar power installations are commercial; the rest are residential. The state currently generates 26 megawatts of solar power.

Maryland is not alone in solar energy growth. Public Radio International program, Living On Earth, reports that this year, “the U.S. [solar panel] industry expects to double its production.” The program mentions three reasons for this stunning growth. The first is the federal government solar installation incentive signed by President Bush three years ago. (Not mentioned in the story are the many state and local government incentives.) The second is the huge drop in the cost of solar panels from roughly four dollars and twenty cents a watt three years ago, down to roughly one dollar and twenty cents a watt today. Finally, the advent of solar leasing programs that eliminate the up-front cost of rooftop solar has created a spike in demand.

Gaithersburg Residents Create their Own “Citizens Plan” for Smart Growth

An article by Pam Lindstrom in the October 5 Greater Greater Washington begins with: “Filling a void of vision for a livable, sustainable future for Gaithersburg, my neighbors and I created our own plan for managing growth along the MD-355 corridor.” Lindstrom, with fellow Gaithersburg resident Judy Christensen, and architect Scott Knudson of Wiencek and Associates offering pro bono services, organized three charrettes in spring 2011, inviting neighbors and zoning lawyers representing some of the larger land and building owners in the 355 corridor. They presented their “Citizens’ Plan” to Gaithersburg elected officials and Planning Commission in July, and were met with a positive response. Here is a link to the article and another to a PDF of the Citizens’ Plan on the City of Gaithersburg Website.

Wind Energy: Marylanders are Ready; Are Politicians Willing?

A survey of 805 registered Maryland voters found 62 percent said they are willing to pay an additional $2 per month for electricity if more of it is generated by “clean, local offshore wind farms, instead of coming from coal, oil and gas.” Only 34 percent said they are not willing to pay more. The telephone survey was conducted throughout the state in late September for the National Wildlife Federation and the Offshore Wind Coalition. Margie Hyslop breaks down the poll numbers in the October 10 Gazette, and discusses the possible political ramifications of the survey in a follow up article on October 14.

Hyslop found that politicians who support a Maryland offshore wind farm plan to use the survey results in the next General Assembly session as one justification to move forward. In addition, she says, “advocates are more organized, have hired a lobbyist and are putting together a business coalition” to support the wind farm.

Let your Voice Be Heard; Take the Cycle Maryland Survey

The Maryland Office of Tourism, Department of Transportation, and State Highway Administration are conducting a bicycle user survey to learn more about cyclists in Maryland and what products they would find most useful to help plan bicycle trips. They hope to gain knowledge that will be used to improve cycling products and services. The survey is expected to take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. After you are finished, you may choose to enter a prize drawing. The survey is here. The Cycle Maryland Webpage is here.

County Farmers Selling Pumpkins, Hayrides and Seasonal Fun

Support your local farmer, and have fun doing so! A number of Montgomery County farms are now offering pumpkins and hay rides, pony rides, petting zoos, mazes and haunted houses. For a list of pumpkin farms and their offerings, click here and scroll down to the Montgomery County listings.

Upcoming Green Events

Montgomery County Community Service Week, October 16 – 22. The Montgomery County Volunteer Center invites you to participate.  Attend the Volunteer Engagement Expo on Saturday, October 15 from 1-6pm at White Flint Mall where representatives from 20 local nonprofits will have information about current volunteer opportunities or click here for more information.

Green Home Expo, Saturday October 22, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. This free educational event is held at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor, above Capital One Bank. Learn easy ways to green your home and save money.  Presentations will cover conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.  In addition to industry vendors, meet representatives from nonprofits and Montgomery County government. More information.

Community Forklift Fundraising Extravaganza, Saturday, October 22, 7:00 – 10:30 pm, 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD.
Entertainment by the DC Lady Arm Wrestlers, Silent auction, Wonky Dog food truck, DJ One HeART Muszik, and adult beverages! Must be 21 or over. Community Forklift is a low-cost building materials warehouse open to the general public and a project of Sustainable Community Initiatives, a 501c3 nonprofit. More information on tickets, sponsorships, or to donate a silent auction item.

Community Meeting about Bus Rapid Transit, Monday, October 24, 5:30 – 8:30 pm, Parks and Planning headquarters, 8787   Georgia  Ave., Silver Spring. The Montgomery County Planning Department hosts a community meeting to discuss bus rapid transit (BRT). The proposal includes dedicated traffic lanes for buses along as many as 16 traffic corridors covering 150 miles. Come see where the service is proposed and let the planners know how you think Bus Rapid Transit service can best fit into our community.

Food Day, Monday, October 24, 7:00 pm, at the Church in Bethesda, 5033 Wilson Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814. You are invited to a local screening of the documentary film “Ingredients” co-sponsored by Church in Bethesda, Bethesda Presbyterian and Graceful Growing Together. The evening will also include short presentations by community members about healthy food, sustainable farms and related topics. Please RSVP if you plan on attending!

LEED for Existing Buildings, Operations + Maintenance Event, Thursday, October 27, 8:00 – 11:00 am, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor. This presentation is designed specifically for building owners, managers, developers and other building professionals. Details here.

BG101, Thursday, October 27, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Maryland Clean Energy Summit, Thursday, October 27 – Saturday, October 29, Hilton Inner Harbor, Baltimore. Includes a consumer trade show and conference sessions that are FREE TO THE PUBLIC – on Saturday 10/29 9:30 – 2:30. Test drive a Chevy Volt, learn how to use your smart phone to control your home’s thermostat and lighting while you’re away, how to finance home energy improvements and much more. Click here, then scroll down to “Saturday, October 29th” for more information about the free consumer event.