Monthly Archives: September 2016

Installation Pictures From The Sky: MSSI Installation in Marbury, Maryland

Back in early 2016 MSSI installed this 19.5 kW system in Charles County. This Customer wished to max out his rooftop and generate as much energy as possible, so we used both his barn’s and home’s roof.


Since installation in January, this system has produced a total of 14,230 kWh and is slated to cover his usage by 109% this year.


Additionally, since system turn-on in January, this family has saved 21,617 lbs of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, equivalent to 555 trees having been planted.



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Landscaping For Solar

MSSI Logo PV Solar-Friendly Small Trees and Large Shrubs


Picture taken from a Solar PV Array MSSI installed in Silver Spring, Maryland.

You have solar panels and you love them. You’re happy with what the sun is doing for you, but you also want a little bit of shade. We understand, so in honor of amateur horticulturalists everywhere we thought it’d be helpful to put together a starter list of small trees/large shrubs that can provide a little bit of PV-friendly shade in your landscape.

In lieu of using front porch roof structures, pergolas, arbors, awnings or other horizontal measures to shade the home, use native, slow to medium growth deciduous trees/large shrubs for the same purpose. Use species you might already be familiar with like Dogwood and Eastern Redbud. They are deciduous and by dropping their leaves in the winter, they will still let the sun in to warm the home during the winter months. Below are some you may already know and some that may be all new to you.

Rain Garden

Small Trees:

1. Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis


Redbud is a 15-30 ft. tree, it’s pink to purple and sometimes white flowers create a showy spring flower display. Vase shaped with distinctive heart-shaped leaves, turning golden in the autumn, and tolerates full sun.

2. Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida

Cornus florida

Flowering dogwood is a 20-40 ft., single- or multi-trunked tree with a lovely spreading crown graced with white and sometimes pink flowers for a long bloom period during the spring. Gorgeous scarlet foliage in the autumn and produces small red berries that birds prize. Does best in part shade, but will tolerate full sun. Is also the larval host for the Spring Azure butterfly.

3. Serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis


Serviceberry is a small, understory tree or large, multi-trunked shrub with many upright branches that grows 6-20 ft. high. Its crown is delicate and open. Multitude of white blossoms followed by a small, crimson-colored, apple-like fruit that wild birds adore. Fall foliage is orangey-red. Tolerates all light requirements.

4. White Fringe Tree, Chionanthus virginicus


White Fringe Tree is a 15-30 ft., deciduous tree or shrub that displays clusters of fragrant, white blossoms during the spring. After flowering, dark blue, clusters of fruits are produced. One of the last to bloom and leaf out in the spring, this will add a last burst of color to the spring show. Prefers part sun. Larval host for the Rustic Sphinx.

5. Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana

Witch Hazel

Erupting into golden blooms a full month before the oft-planted non-native Forsythia, Witch Hazel is a small tree that is often multi-trunked and usually growing 10-15 ft. tall. The large, crooked, spreading branches form an irregular, open crown. Its flowers are not only yellow, but deliciously-scented. During the summer months, its foliage is light green, but then turns a brilliant gold in autumn. Bark is smooth and gray and full sun brings out the best in this tree.

Large Shrubs:

1. ‘Mt. Airy,’ Fothergilla, Fothergilla major

Fothergilla Major

Large Fothergilla is a 6-12 ft., deciduous shrub with lovely crooked, multiple stems. Gorgeous blue-green foliage is colorful in autumn. The fragrant flower, appearing as a mass of stamens, is white, looks like a fuzzy bottle brush and appears after the leaves have come out. Full sun is best for this beauty.

2. Spicebush, Lindera benzoin

Lindera Benzoin
Because of it early display of yellow flowers, Spicebush is often referred to as the “Forsythia of the wilds.” It is a single- or multi-trunked shrub, 6-12 ft. tall, with glossy leaves and graceful, slender, light green branches. Much like the aforementioned forsythia, the buds traverse across each twig and are followed by glossy red fruit. Both the fruit and foliage are aromatic. Leaves turn a colorful golden-yellow in fall. Tolerates all sun intensities and is the larval host for three butterflies: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail and Promethea Silkmoth.
3. Elderberry, Sambucas canadensis

Sambucas canadensis

Black Elderberry is an open and graceful shrub with both woody and herbaceous branches, growing up to 12 ft. tall. Flowers are disk-shaped, white, in broad, flat, conspicuous clusters up to 10 inches or more in diameter, appearing from May to July. Fruit is dark-purple, berrylike, and edible. Birds love them.

4. Arrowwood Viburnum, Viburnum dentatum

Viburnum dentatum

Arrowwood Viburnum is a 6-8 ft. shrub with multiple stems in a loose, rounded habit. White, flat-topped flower clusters are followed by dark blue berries. Gorgeous yellow to wine-red foliage in the autumn. Tolerates all intensities of sun and is the larval host for the Spring Azure Butterfly.

A Few Last Thoughts
A few notes: on the west side, use vertical shading to stop the low-angle, late-afternoon sun from reaching walls and windows. This can take the form of trellises and vines on the wall, screen walls, shrub-like plants and trees. As far as height of trees, stick with a tree or shrub that isn’t going to get higher, or much higher, than the south-facing roof line. Shade from the west will shorten the productivity your PV modules each day, whereas shade from the south dramatically reduces production all day long.

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Installation Pictures From The Sky: MSSI Installation in Arbutus, Maryland

MSSI Logo Petite, Yet Mighty PV Solar Power Array in Arbutus, Maryland!



The owners of this historical home in Arbutus, Maryland wanted to go solar. While the hips in their roof presented some challenges, we were able to design and install a 3.68 kW system for them. 


Installed in July 2011, this PV solar system has produced a whopping 15.65 MW of electricity, has saved 24,235 lbs from entering the atmosphere, an equivalent of having planted 610 trees!

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One Month Until America’s First Offshore Wind Farm Goes Live!

MSSI Logo   One Month Until America’s First Offshore Wind Farm Goes Live!

Next month the United States will launch its first ever offshore wind farm in Rhode Island off the coast of Block Island. While the U.S. has already installed over 50,000 wind turbines on land this is our nation’s first foray into producing wind power offshore. While the farm is admittedly tiny compared to its land-based brethren; just five turbines expected to power only 17,000 homes, it is expected that this farm will not only generate greater enthusiasm for offshore wind, but will help to smooth the way for increased offshore wind deployment here in the U.S..

Starting Small

Due to its strong steady winds, the northeast coast here in the U.S. is considered prime real estate for offshore wind farms, yet we lag way behind our European neighbors across the pond in deployment of offshore wind. Why? Three reasons: size, political will and cost.

If installed, the first large-scale offshore farm proposed in the U.S. would have resided off of the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts and would have consisted of 130 turbines. In retrospect, experts now think that the project was too ambitious and was too close to shore to succeed. Locals balked. The project gradually lost support in the state legislature and it is unlikely that the project dubbed “Cape Wind” is ever to move forward.

The developer behind the Block Island Wind Farm, Deepwater Wind, decided to take another approach: this time start small. The farm consists of just five turbines and the residents of Block Island, by and large, supported the project. Due to its smaller size and the additional advantage of being able to connect Block Island to the mainland grid for the first time, the start-smaller approach worked. The additional benefit is that the smaller project has essentially proven that offshore wind can be done here in the U.S., a concept many people in the U.S. have long scoffed at as a pipe dream.

Harnessing Political Will For Wind

In addition to starting small, Block Island Wind Farm and Deepwater Wind was backed by the Rhode Island political establishment. Across the United States, there has been an increase in passing state-level legislation in an attempt to curb global warming.

Beginning with a law passed by the Bush Administration and Congress in 2005, and further defined by the Obama administration, the Federal Government has cleared up the murky rules surrounding use of the eastern seaboard’s ocean floor for the purposes of wind farm construction. In combination with precise clarification, offshore wind is set to take off as states like New York pass renewable energy goals that will have to rely on offshore wind to reach the quotas they have set forth in law.

Mitigating Costs

Not withstanding political will and ambition, the high costs associated with harnessing marine-born wind have been daunting enough to keep the U.S. from fully embracing the deployment of offshore wind. In many ways, the U.S. will serve to benefit from allowing the Europeans to have lead the way on harnessing offshore wind by leaving it to them to construct of the needed infrastructure for the industry.

While it is expected that the costs to build offshore wind in the U.S. will initially be greater than current costs in Europe (even with the falling costs that Europe has been able to mitigate by maturing the technology), it is also expected that these costs will decrease significantly as the U.S. gains an economy of scale similar to what northern Europe now has in place. For instance, there are Gulf Coast oil rig infrastructure contractors looking at wind as a means to grow their business. Once political will and ambition have been stoked, it is thought that offshore wind here in the U.S. is on track to boom, rivaling the 50,000-something turbines installed in middle and western U.S. and ringing the coasts of our country in years to come.

Offshore Wind In Maryland?

The O.C., you betcha! In 2014, Italian-based company US Wind, won the rights to install offshore wind along the sea floor adjacent to Ocean City, Maryland. At the closest point, the proposed farm would sit about 14 miles offshore and would consist of 187 turbines, providing power for more than 500,000 homes. Additionally, this project “will also help alleviate a long-standing electric power deficiency on the Eastern Shore,” and is projected to save Marylander’s $2 on each of their electric bills due to the erasure of the “congestion fees’ needed to balance lopsided demand within our state’s grid.

On August 28th, US Wind announced that it will be completing its seafloor surveys in order to prepare the final layout of the farm. Final plans are expected to be finished by 2017.

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Solar Power Is A Friend to the Chesapeake Bay

MSSI Logo Solar Power is a Friend to the Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay

As you may be aware, the Chesapeake Bay was once an abundant waterway, home to a teeming population of blue crabs, oysters, rockfish and impressive forests of sea grass. Because Maryland borders the Chesapeake Bay we are on intimate terms with the world’s largest estuary and have known for many decades that our beloved bay is in trouble. 

According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, sea grass coverage continues to hover at around 20% of historical levels, while blue crab populations have dwindled to 50% of their population levels recorded during the 1980’s. Rockfish continue to struggle to regain a foothold in the Bay and the oyster population is now 98% below historical numbers. In fact, it would take the Bay’s current population over a year to filter the Bays’ waters; at prior population levels it would have taken only a few days! Due to a combination of nitrogen pollution, habitat loss and over fishing, the health of the Bay is in crisis. At a loss of $4 billion during the last 30 years for both water men and the Chesapeake Bay seafood industry, it is indeed a precarious situation for the world’s largest estuary.

Good News Surfaces for the Bay

According to a Bay health scorecard recently released by the University of Maryland, there seems to be a turnaround underway. The blue crab population has gone up, the oyster harvests have increased, amounts of dissolved oxygen in the Bay went up and aquatic grasses have increased by 50% from 2011 to 2015. While there has not been meaningful movement made by either Virginia or Maryland on decreasing the amount of nitrogen pollution generated by poultry farms on the Eastern Shore (in fact, it is has gotten worse), the overall amount of nitrogen has decreased and with it the choking blooms of algae associated. Why?

Connection to Renewable Energy

Well, believe it or not there is a connection between the health of the Chesapeake Bay and solar power! More precisely, energy that displaces coal-fired electricity and the the high levels of air pollution associated with it. In fact, about a ¼ of the nitrogen pollution entering the Bay is from the air! Beginning with the 2006 Maryland Healthy Air Act and then the 2009 Obama Administration regulations imposed on coal-fired power plants we have seen a major reduction in air born nitrogen polluting the Bay. We can’t help but think that the 349 MW of solar energy currently installed in Maryland may have also had a part to play in such good news! After all, we rank #13 in the United States in installed solar capacity! Because of the cleaner energy choices we make, our Chesapeake’s water becomes cleaner and clearer too!

Blue Crab
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