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Lighting the Way

John Hopkins University Sign Lite Up at Night

Let the sun shine in.

That’s the philosophy at Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus, where solar panels have been installed at two new monument signs at the entrances to the campus.

The signs are set back from the roadway, campus buildings and pedestrian traffic, making them ideally situated for solar panels. Using solar panels also avoids the cumbersome logistics of connecting to nearby power sources. The solar power generated by day illuminates the signs at night.

Installing solar panels at the campus dovetails with the university’s renewable energy initiatives, which include installing solar photovoltaic arrays on building roofs and parking garages.

Johns Hopkins in 2012 installed more than 2,900 solar panels on seven buildings on the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses. The project was the first major renewable energy system at Hopkins. JHU currently is embarking on Phase 2 as officials look for more sites to install solar panels, said Ashley Pennington, senior program coordinator for the JHU Office of Sustainability. Using parking garages and roofs “is truly efficiency at its best,” Pennington said. “It’s making a space multipurpose.”

Under the direction of President William R. Brody, the JHU Office of Sustainability was formed in 2006, and the President’s Task Force on Climate Change was formed the following year. The task force’s mission was to develop recommendations on how Johns Hopkins should lower greenhouse gas emissions. A goal was set to reduce emissions 51 percent from 2008 levels by 2025. Since 2008, the Montgomery County Campus has decreased total emissions by 44 percent.

Solar panels are being installed “to improve the sustainability of our institution,” Pennington said. “This is the cleanest way to do it.”

No harmful chemicals are emitted when solar is used, and no harmful extraction processes are used to create solar energy.

The solar signs are just the latest project taken by the Montgomery County Campus to embrace sustainability initiatives. The campus was lauded by President Ronald J. Daniels in April when the Sustainability Office selected the campus to win the Wacky and Wonderful Award, one of 10 Green Blue Jay awards given to areas of the university that exemplify sustainability ideals. The Montgomery County Campus was recognized for purchasing 30 Snuggies so students, faculty and staff could stay warm if the heat goes out or if they are cold while on campus.

Though the Montgomery County Campus solar project is relatively small, even small projects can have a significant impact, Pennington said. Students, faculty and staff will see a campus is committed to sustainability initiatives and be encouraged to take additional steps to creating a sustainable environment.