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Off Grid Sustainable Energy Research Facility Unplugs in Maryland

Off Grid Sustainable Energy Research Facility Unplugs in MarylandFrostburg State University Symbolically “Unplugsâ€

FROSTBURG, Md. – Frostburg State University in Western Maryland symbolically “unplugged†its Sustainable Energy Research Facility (SERF) from the electrical grid on Monday, Oct. 29. The completely off-grid building in the Allegany Business Center at Frostburg State University (ABC@FSU) will serve as home to a wide variety of renewable energy research projects and instructional classes, as well as being a demonstration and test site for technologies that allow buildings to be separate from the power grid.

“SERF may be off the grid, but it puts Frostburg State University very much on the map as a national leader in renewable energy research, which opens the doors for us to welcome visiting researchers, consultants, companies and other partners who wish to further the study of renewable energy,†said FSU President Jonathan Gibralter. “It will greatly help Frostburg raise its visibility and uphold sustainable education in important ways.â€

The 6,300-square-foot building itself will be a demonstration and test center, as it will be entirely off-grid, powered and heated with all renewable sources, a combination of solar, wind, passive solar and hydrogen fuel cell technology. The building also features a variety of conservation and energy storage options and will continue to develop as new technologies are added.

Dr. Oguz Soysal and Ms. Hilkat Soysal, co-directors of the FSU Renewable Energy Center and faculty in the FSU Department of Physics and Engineering, said they first conceived of a facility like this during the energy crisis of the 1970s. This FSU project has been five years in the making, as solutions to combining the various technologies not previously used together have been developed as contractors, FSU employees and engineers have collaborated.

The approach of twin storms from opposite directions, Hurricane Sandy and a winter storm, as the ceremony was being held was not lost on the dignitaries in attendance. While simultaneously hoping that the storm’s impact would be minimal, the hazardous forecast emphasized the role of a facility dedicated to renewable energy and energy resources that were separate from the national electrical grid, Oguz Soysal said.

“There couldn’t have been any better example to set for the need for renewable energy, sustainable energy work,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), whose advocacy was an essential step in getting the SERF project off the ground, remarked that he had been to openings of several large solar arrays, but all were tied to the electrical grid, which meant they couldn’t be used if the grid went down.

The facility is believed to be the nation’s only totally off-grid building dedicated to the research of renewable energy generation. Individual homeowners, farmers or small businesses located in the Appalachian region or regions with similar geographic features are expected to benefit from its research.

Bartlett said that the solutions that may come from SERF will serve the goals of three very diverse advocacy groups that are often at odds with one another: those concerned with climate change and the increase of the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; those concerned with the national security risk inherent in the United States being so dependent on imported oil; and those concerned that oil is a finite resource that will be increasingly difficult and expensive to retrieve.

The construction, equipping and staffing of SERF has been supported by two grants from the U.S. Department of Energy totaling nearly $1.6 million, obtained with the assistance of Bartlett, the representative for Maryland’s 6th District.. Additional support has come from Frostburg State University, Constellation Energy and Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS).

More information about SERF and renewable energy research at Frostburg can be found here: or by e-mailing [email protected].

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit or Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

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