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MC Uses Solar Panels And Lots Of Ice To Save Energy

Whether it’s high performance buildings with solar panels, utility management strategies, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, and even massive quantities of ice, Montgomery College has made it a mission to reduce costs, conserve energy and go green.

All College buildings constructed after 1985 have met strict Building Energy Performance Standards and all those built after 2007 have obtained U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Gold certification. LEED is the most popular green building certification programs worldwide and is largely responsible for a 40 percent reduction in energy use compared to non-LEED certified buildings, according to Michael Whitcomb, energy manager at MC.

Solar panels on the Science Center building

Solar panels on newer structures, such as the science buildings at the Rockville Campus, are another component of the overall energy-saving, sustainable strategies MC is pursuing. The north garage’s upper deck, as well as the Student Services Center in Rockville and the Science and Applied Studies Building in Germantown—both under construction—are designed to accept solar panels in the future, when the budget allows.   

So how does ice fit into the energy cost saving equation? All Montgomery College campuses have central ice storage plants that provide cooling to the campus and reduce energy costs during the summer months.

“The plants make ice at night when the electricity rates are cheap and then we melt that ice during the mid-day when the electricity rates are more expensive,” Whitcomb said.

Ice storage plant

Maria Manfre, utility analyst at the College, has implemented a utility management database that serves as an administrative mechanism to track utility bills, identify billing errors and waste, and electronically process payments through to accounts payable.

“The plants make ice at night when the electricity rates are cheap and then we melt that ice during the mid-day when the electricity rates are more expensive,” Whitcomb said.

“That program has the capability of auditing the [monthly] bills, so if there’s a bill that looks too big, too small, doesn’t compare to the same month last year, it gets flagged. Once it’s in that system, it’s all digitized,” Whitcomb said. When the system for making those payments becomes automated—by target date fall 2020—it is estimated that the College will save up to $160,000 annually.

Currently, the College purchases electricity and natural gas at a fixed rate, but Whitcomb says the team is exploring the wholesale market.

The Science Center at the Rockville Campus features a green roof, high-efficiency chillers, solar panels, an underground cistern, and recycled construction materials

“We could be looking at $200,000 dollars a year in savings, compared to the way we are doing it now,” he said. “We are in the process of getting a consultant who would do the commodity purchasing for us.”

In an effort to reduce costs and do its part toward a more sustainable and healthier environment, cleaning crews on MC campuses are certified in green cleaning that uses non-toxic cleaning materials.


The MC Green Team, a collegewide sustainability committee made up of faculty and staff, frequently meets and reports on all these strategies, as well as on recycling and environmental issues. To leave comments or suggestions, visit the committee website.

To learn more about MC’s sustainability efforts, visit the Montgomery College website.


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