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Harnessing the sun to power an entire campus

By: Country Meadows |

Country Meadows of Frederick is harnessing the power of the sun.

The retirement community recently completed construction of a $1.2 million solar field on its campus located at 5955 Quinn Orchard Road. The one-megawatt DC solar system is expected to provide close to 100 percent of Country Meadows’ annual energy needs.

Sloped land on the Country Meadows of Frederick campus provided space to construct a solar field, allowing the campus to use the environmentally friendly energy source to provide nearly all its power.

“We decided to pursue a solar project to utilize green technology to meet our energy needs. This is something we all need to do,” says Dan Mills, Senior Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer, Country Meadows.

In addition to providing clean renewable power, the solar field affords numerous opportunities for residents, co-workers and visitors to enjoy the property, including a walking path, benches and accessible viewing areas. In addition to the solar field, the property boasts more than 30 types of pollinator plants including various milkweeds, golden rod, asters and sunflowers, to name a few.

“We removed invasive plants and replaced them with pollinator plants, so there may be opportunities, if residents are interested, to partner with local conservation groups on a variety of projects,” adds Mills. “It can have a dual purpose of providing purpose while managing our energy costs.”

The field is constructed on sloped campus land unsuitable for building. Mills says finding a use for the land that will save the environment while providing carbon-free energy is a win-win, adding, “This project will pay for itself in just under six years and has a lifespan of up to 40 years. We can be sustainable and involve our residents, too.”

In its first month of operation, the solar field produced approximately 113 MWh—which is enough to power approximately 117 average US households for one month. Other notable ecological impacts include:

  • Carbon absorbing capability of more than 1,100 trees.
  • Saved nearly 32,000 gallons of water used to generate conventional methods of non-renewable energy.
  • Saved more than 5,000 gallons of gasoline needed to produce the same amount of power utilizing traditional methods.

A butterfly lands on a pollinator plant in the solar field at Country Meadows of Frederick.

ARM Group, LLC, the project designer and contractor, partnered with Country Meadows to help the senior living provider develop a system to supply the facility’s electrical load from renewable energy, utilize only marginal land and enhance the ecological attributes of the property while providing viewing access and educational benefits to the community residents.

“ARM was able to help this pioneering client achieve these goals while simultaneously lowering its annual electric costs for the facility,” says Bryan Wehler, P.E., CEO-ARM, Group Inc. “Country Meadows deserves a lot of credit for walking the talk when it comes to sustainability. ARM was privileged to help bring this vision to fruition.”

The field also provides Country Meadows with additional revenue to put back into its senior living community. “We will be able to net-meter and send the excess electrical power generated by the solar field during the day, and the utility will credit our electric bill at the retail rate. It’s a great way to diversify our business,” says Mills. “You don’t have to be dependent on the electric company and you can be self-sufficient, which is really exciting. This project is great for the environment and gives our organization an opportunity to support this initiative for a greener world and do the right thing.”

Click here to watch a video about the solar project.

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