Energy Sustainability Students Advises Small Town in Western Maryland on Becoming Grid Independent

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Friendsville, Maryland

Story by Francesca Pascual

CEEE director Prof. Reinhard Radermacher, along with graduate students taking the course ‘Sustainable Energy Conversion and the Environment’, explored the possibility of bringing grid independence Friendsville, located in western Maryland. With a population of 484 people, Friendsville’s requires 6.74 GWh of electricity per year. The group recommended that Friendsville stay connected to the existing grid, but also participate in a net metering program.

Dr. Radermacher and his students projected that Friendsville could create its own energy and completely support itself for the majority of the year. An estimated 3.24 GWh would be created using solar and wind energies , and the remaining 3.5 GWh could be saved annually if all the residents of Friendsville switched to bio oils to heat their home. Since these changes can be costly and time consuming, Friendsville is currently only focusing on solar power.

The Friendsville Renewable Energy Effort (FREE) was formed in January 2016, after Dr. Radermacher and his students concluded their report. FREE proposed a plan to build a solar array on July 18. After the installation costs, the town could potentially save $300,000 on electric bills 15 years after the solar array is installed. This would make a replacement array affordable once the initial solar array’s life cycle ends after 30 years.

Robert Smith, chairman of FREE, believes Dr. Radermacher’s work with Friendsville has a positive impact on the community’s awareness of alternative energy solutions. “The report from Dr. Radermacher’s class and his presentation to the town in February has gone a long way toward raising the consciousness level of this town,” he explained. Friendsville’s newfound awareness lead the creation of their first Solar Saturday on July 23. The town is currently seeking funding to bring the plan to a reality.

Published October 7, 2016