Bringing Solar Power to One of the Most Environmentally-Friendly Buildings in the World

Standard Solar CEO Tony Clifford and Kenergy Solar President Ken Stadlin.

Standard Solar CEO Tony Clifford and Kenergy Solar President Ken Stadlin.

Imagine a building filled with excited students; a building that can teach with­out saying a word; a building that can inspire visitors to lower their individual impact on the planet and usher in an era marked by a harmonious balance between our built environment and the natural world.

Seem like lofty goals? They are, and that’s why the Alice Ferguson Foundation deserves considerable kudos for meeting these goals at the soon-to-be opened Potomac Watershed Study Center (PWSC) located in Accokeek, Maryland. The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s mission is to connect people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship and advocacy.

There are lots of things that make the PWSC unique, but the one we’re most proud of is (you guessed it!) the solar power system we installed onsite. Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Lindsay Renner agreed in a recent blog post: “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…perhaps what sets it apart the most.” Solar power provides 100 percent of electricity used on the site and exports power to the grid.  The PWSC also serves as a hands-on learning tool for students and visitors. As an added benefit, the installation helps Maryland meet the state requirement of 2 percent solar by 2020.

Yesterday evening, our CEO Tony Clifford was one of a distinguished group to attend a reception and special preview tour of the PWSC. It was a great opportunity to see the finished solar project and the building that completed the Living Building Challenge© (a conservation code requiring net positive  energy production, net zero waste and water usage and net zero greenhouse gas emissions).

“It’s a very unique building,” Tony said. “When touring the site, I was particularly impressed by the seeming simplicity of this attractive, technically sophisticated building. Beyond the quite visible solar array on the roof, the building looks quite normal. The PWSC demonstrates that energy, water and waste can be dramatically reduced without drastic changes in a building’s architecture and design.

PWSC is the first building to meet the Living Building Challenge requirements in the Mid-Atlantic region – and one of the first in the world. Besides using solar power, PWSC also relies on sunlight for water heating, rainwater for water use, compost for toilets, and nontoxic materials for every aspect of building construction. The facility is good for the environment, and it looks good, too: featuring a lodge perched in the trees and a wetlands boardwalk.

At the reception, Tony joined leaders of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, Prince Georges County officials, environmentalists and other stakeholders who helped make the PWSC a reality. It was a celebratory evening to reflect on  the culmination of several years of hard work to build a facility that meets rigorous environmental standards. Click “time lapse” on this page to see a cool one minute video of the construction process.

At the beginning of the evening, reception attendees raised their glasses to honor the PSWC. While we couldn’t all be at the event, the rest of the team here at Standard Solar raised our glasses in spirit. We’re proud of our partnership with the Foundation to create one of the most environmentally-friendly buildings in the world. Cheers to solar power and the Potomac Watershed Study Center!

Alyssa Kagel About the author
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