Laurel company shines new light on solar energy storage -- Gazette.Net


Laurel-based real estate developer Konterra Realty is hoping to light the way towards renewable energy by hosting Maryland’s first commercial solar microgrid system.

“The Konterra Solar Microgrid is a prime example of Maryland’s innovation economy moving forward,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D), who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the solar microgrid Tuesday afternoon at Konterra’s headquarters in Laurel.

By hosting one of the first commercial solar microgrids in the country, Konterra is helping Maryland lead the way in the emerging renewable energy industry, he said.

“That means more jobs for Maryland fathers and mothers,” O’Malley said.

Melissa Gould, director of sustainability initiatives for Konterra, said the grid would allow the building to maintain power even during an outage.

The system’s 402 kilowatt canopied solar array is estimated to generate 20 percent of the electricity needed to power Konterra’s Laurel headquarters, said Scott Wiater, president of Rockville-based Standard Solar, which developed the microgrid in collaboration with Philadelphia-based Solar Grid Storage, which provided the energy storage system.

Wiater said the microgrid system differs from a solar panel array in that it is capable of storing the electricity produced, which can be used to power Konterra’s headquarters in case of a power grid failure.

The microgrid, along with the Konterra building’s emergency generator, could power the building indefinitely, depending on conditions, Wiater said.

“A regular solar array shuts down if the grid goes down. For safety reasons, it stops producing any power,” Wiater said. “A microgrid, when the grid goes down, continues producing electricity. Instead of going to the grid it goes to storage, and the building can still be powered.”

Additionally, two electric vehicle charging stations have been installed, providing electrical charge for vehicles for a small fee and charging stations can be added as demand increases, said Warren Woo, Standard Solar project manager.

The microgrid system cost approximately $2 million, said Konterra CEO Kingdon Gould, III, and was facilitated through a $250,000 “Game Changer” grant from the Maryland Energy Administration.

The Game Changer competitive grant provides funds to early-commercialization stage clean energy projects based in Maryland, according to the state website.

O’Malley said one of his strategic goals is to increase the state’s renewable energy portfolio to 20 percent by the year 2022.

“These are the things that actually make the real estate business we’re in continually interesting, as we try and upgrade and do things that are a little better for the environment,” Kingdon Gould said.