By George Hunter, Ph.D.
Member, Riderwood Sustainbility Committee
The Riderwood Sustainability Committee’s Energy subcommittee has been focused on improving the community’s energy footprint in four main areas: better understanding the campus’s overall energy usage, reducing our “carbon footprint” by retrofitting our exterior pole lighting with LED lamps, installing chargers for electric vehicles, and exploring the feasibility of solar power generation.
In pursuing these initiatives, Riderwood has been working closely with Era Building Solutions, a local building solutions consultant and contractor. Earlier this year Era conducted a preliminary energy audit which was helpful in determining the next steps in an overarching energy strategy for the community. Era’s first estimate of our energy usage showed we’re doing better than the Energy-Star standard; however, more improvement is possible. One area in which Riderwood is taking immediate action is in decreasing our water usage. This spring the General Services department will be repairing and renovating the “cooling towers” at Village Square and Town Center. These cooling towers are used to cool the large common areas in these buildings and use a significant amount of water. By completing these modifications, the community will use less water and will reduce our water bill.
After a review of lighting safety information, we agreed to Era replacing our outdoor lighting with LED (Light Emitting Diode) sources and canopies. We considered each of the safety areas, including sleep-cycle disruption and emissions at dangerous visible and ultraviolet wavelengths (safer than current!) before agreeing to go ahead. It’s estimated that the installation of these new lights will reduce Riderwood’s carbon emissions by more than 525,000 pounds per year. This is the equivalent of the community planting 6,000 trees or taking 51 cars off the road each year for the life of the diodes.
One Level-2 Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station has been approved and will be installed on the Riderwood campus this year. It will be able to charge two EVs simultaneously.
This past year, solar power was explored with two companies. Unfortunately, compared to the very favorable electricity rates Erickson obtained for all its campuses, solar is not yet economically competitive for Riderwood. However, we expect continuing reductions in solar power cost which will make this source viable in the future. Alas, the still-higher cost of “canopy solar” over outdoor parking makes it unlikely to be economically viable even in the next few years. However, Era estimates that we could start with coverage of the two long-life steel, green-colored roofs over the Lakeside Commons Shuttle Stop and part of the Overlook restaurant roof for about $33,000. A firmer estimate will be pursued this year for likely panel installation in 2019.