Sustainability at the University of Maryland


A major research university such as the University of Maryland requires a lot of energy to operate. With an energy bill of over $40 million per year, climbing energy rates, and a strong commitment to climate action, the university is using an array of strategies to lessen campus energy consumption and reduce burning fuels in the generation of energy for campus.

President's Energy Initiatives

At a Glance:

Learn More:

Occupancy Sensors

In response to student concerns that many classroom lights remain on during off hours and exceed campus building lighting standards, Facilities Management installed over 200 occupancy sensors in general-purpose classrooms. This energy conservation project, with input from the Provost's Office and endorsement from the University Sustainability Council, reduces energy consumption of existing fixtures by about 30%. Click here to learn more.

Severn Solar Array

UMD was selected as a Maryland Energy Administration Project Sunburst Initiative Partner and awarded a grant aimed at promoting the installation of renewable energy systems on public buildings in Maryland. Washington Gas Energy Services, Inc. (WGES) financed the remainder of the project cost and UMD will purchase the electricity generated by the solar panels under a 20-year agreement with WGES. The 631 kilowatt system, which was installed by Standard Solar, Inc. of Rockville, Md., is owned and operated by WGES. It produces about 792 megawatt hours of electricity each year. The array is constructed with 2,632 Suniva solar panels configured in 188 strings with 14 panels per string, installed using a Sunlink ballasted non penetrating racking system all tilted at 10 degrees. Read more here.

Green Fund for Green Power

The University Sustainability Council's Student Sustainability Fee Subcommittee recommended in spring 2010 to use year one funds to purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) for the campus. A REC represents one megawatt-hour of electricity produced from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar. Purchasing RECs promotes the development of wind farms and other renewable energy projects while allowing the University to count these RECs as reductions to its carbon footprint. The University purchased 66,000 RECs in 2010, which put the University of Maryland among the top ten universities in the nation for the purchase of renewable energy.

USM Renewable Energy Contract

In 2010, the University System of Maryland (USM) and the Department of General Services executed three (3), twenty year Power Purchase Agreements for renewable energy. The projects are:

USM receives 1/3 of the output from each project, which equates to approximately 15 percent of our total energy use. This equates to the University of Maryland receiving 15 percent of its purchased energy from renewable sources. The Maryland wind project, Roth Rock Wind Farm, became operational in 2011, and the Pinnacle Project (West Virginia) and the solar project at Mount St. Mary’s became operational in 2012. USM retains the renewable energy credits (RECs) for all of the purchased energy.

Energy Performance Contracts

The State of Maryland recently pre-qualified a group of Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) to make performance contracts available to state agencies, including the University. Performance contracts allow energy conservation measures and technologies to be installed without any upfront capital cost to the University. The ESCO is repaid through utility bill savings over the term of the contract. The ESCO guarantees projected savings and a measurement and verification program ensures that these savings are realized.

Solar Hot Water at the Diner

Solar hot water panels installed at Ellicott Dining Hall in early 2010 provide about 30 percent of the energy needed to pre-heat domestic water for “the Diner.” The system includes 20 panels with 3 solar storage tanks, pumps, temperature sensors, and controls. As Dining Services continues to install water saving devices, the percentage of solar-heated water used at the Diner will continue to increase.

Solar Photovoltaic Panels on Main Campus

A 5.25 kW photovoltaic solar array was installed on the roof of the Cole Student Activities Building in 2009. An interactive computer monitor will soon be installed in the lobby of the Driskell Center that will provide information on the project including the amount of electricity being produced and general information about University sustainability efforts.

Hallway Lighting Project

Since 2008, Facilities Management has retrofitted hallway lighting in 24 buildings across campus. The program consists of replacing T8 fixtures with more energy efficient dimmable T5 fixtures while reducing the total number of fixtures in each hallway. It provides a standard illumination of 5-8 foot candles as well as the capability of being further reduced by 50 percent during night time setback via the University’s building automation system.

From the twenty four buildings completed to date, hallway lighting retrofits average a 73 percent reduction in watts per square foot and a 3 year payback. Annual savings equal $164,000. There are twenty four remaining academic buildings eligible for retrofits.

CO2 Monitors

Ventilation systems pump air from the outside into buildings on campus to replace the CO2 that people exhale with oxygen. The pumps run on electricity. Previously, the pumps ran continuously at the same rate, regardless of whether the building was occupied or needed fresh air. Now, monitors are being installed that can slow or stop the pumps when the buildings contain the correct level of oxygen. The monitors start the pumps again when too much CO2 is detected and fresh air is needed.

Heat and Power Generation

The recipient of the EPA’s 2005 Energy Star Award, the University’s Combined Heat and Power Plant was completed in 2003. The system produces all of the steam required for heating and in some cases cooling for the University. The plant is capable of producing up to 90 percent of the University’s electric demand in the winter and around 50 percent of the summer demand. Consisting of two gas-fired combustion turbines, one steam-driven electric turbine, and two heat recovery steam generators, the system operates at efficiencies of around 70 percent, significantly higher than like-sized independent steam boilers and electric generators. The system requires approximately 16 percent less fuel than typical purchased electricity with separate steam generation, resulting in a reduction of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, and roughly 53,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Thermal Storage

The University operates a thermal energy storage system that cuts energy costs and reduces energy consumption during hours of peak demand. The system, located underground behind Stamp Student Union, cools water at night, storing it for daytime use. The chilled water is used to cool three major facilities: the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Stamp Student Union, and the Riggs Alumni Center. Chilling water at night cuts down on peak-hour energy costs and reduces the load on electric generation plant during the day which helps reduce the plant’s emissions during times of high ozone levels, such as “Code Red” air quality days.


Green Energy Tips:

  • Turn off lights in hallways and bathrooms (especially at night!)
  • Switch to CFL lightbulbs
  • Turn your thermostat a few degrees up in the summer and down in the winter
  • Unplug electronics when not in use