When Melissa Joseph was shopping for a home, she knew she wanted to stay in Frederick and was looking for something downtown.
About two months ago, Joseph bought a home on Bentz Street in North Pointe, Frederick’s first energy-efficient housing development.
The houses feature a number of environmentally-friendly features, including solar panels on the roof, geothermal heating and cooling, energy recovery ventilation, low-energy lights and appliances, and windows with special glass and structurally insulated panels.
Joseph said the state-of-the art technology has allowed her to save money on her bills.
Her first monthly electric bill was for 50 cents, which she suspects is a fee from the energy company. She has set a goal to get the bill down to a nickel per month, Joseph said.
And with tax credits for using solar and other energy-conserving technology, Joseph said she ended up paying about the same for her house as she would have to buy a townhouse of the same size without all of the technology.
“It just made sense,” she said.
Joseph and her neighbors got a high-profile visitor on Aug. 29 when Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) toured a model of one of the homes.
O’Malley called the project, built by Nexus EnergyHomes, the epitome of innovation and entrepreneurship.
The homes are a testament to what the combination of green design, architecture and technology can do to help homeowners reduce their energy consumption and limit the effects of climate change, he said.
“I’m just hugely impressed,” O’Malley said after touring the home.
The development of the 55 homes in the heart of Frederick are the result of about 18 months of work, said V. Paul Zanecki, president of Nexus EnergyHomes, which is based in Stevensville on the Eastern Shore.
The buildings are emerald rated, the highest level of environmentally-friendly construction.
The 55 units will nearly double the number of emerald-rated units in the nation, which currently stands at 66, according to Zanecki.
In 30 or 40 years, it will be the standard for home design, O’Malley said.
The project is a result of a collaboration between federal, state and local policies, including tax credits to encourage solar and geothermal technology, he said.
O’Malley said Maryland also has a policy known as “net metering,” which allows owners of energy-efficient homes to sell the excess energy they produce back to power companies.
As the housing market expands in coming years, buyers will be demanding more energy-efficient homes, said Malcolm D. Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration.
With projects like the one on Bentz Street, Frederick County is at the cutting edge of sustainability efforts nationwide, Woolf said.
Such projects are “decades ahead of where the rest of the country is going to be in coming years,” he said.
Earlier in the day on Aug. 29, O’Malley joined U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Dist. 6) and other officials to tour a 100-acre solar panel complex at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg.
The $50 million project, owned and operated by Constellation Energy, consists of nearly 220,000 solar panels that are expected to produce more than 20 million kilowatt hours of emission-free electricity per year, the utility company said in a news release.
Creating the same amount of electricity from non-renewable energy sources would release nearly 18,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
O’Malley said his administration has made solar energy a priority, increasing by a factor of 530 the amount of solar energy available statewide and creating about 2,000 jobs in the solar-energy field.