The future of Hyattsville is renewable energy. At least that’s what the city hopes. 

The Hyattsville Public Works Department and Prince George’s County have initiatives to improve renewable electrification efforts in Hyattsville and throughout the county to address energy and environmental concerns. 

“It’s not just one thing we’re worried about,” Lesley Riddle, director of public works, said. “It’s a cadre of things that all are interdependent [on] our capacity to continue to survive successfully.” 

Riddle’s department is adding a solar roof to its new building, an upgrade the city council approved in January. 

Hyattsville received a Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) grant more than a year ago, but ran into supply-chain issues due to  the pandemic. 

The city will add solar panels to the roof of the new public works building this year and to the roof of the old public works building either next year or the year after, according to Riddle. (The city will use the renovated building, but the “programming of the building has not been determined yet,” Riddle noted in an email.)

Both buildings will remain connected to the traditional electric power grid. Riddle said the department is installing necessary infrastructure to produce their own energy and reduce their electric bills. 

Whenever there is construction within its limits, the city considers the costs of adding renewable energy to the project, Riddle explained. City buildings have solar arrays, as do some city parking lots and playgrounds. 

“We are about reducing our carbon footprint,” Riddle said. “We hope to do that in lots of different ways.” 

The department is also transitioning to renewable energy through adding electric vehicles to its fleet and through the Big Belly Program, the city’s solar-powered trash can initiative.

Sparks flying

The electric garbage truck, which Riddle named Sparky, is coming soon to a trash can near you. 

sparky 2
Hyattsville purchased the first electric garbage truck in Maryland, named Sparky, in October 2021.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Hal Metzler/City of Hyattsville Department of Public Works

“We’re super excited,” Riddle said. “There was a lot of hubbub when she arrived.” 

The department received $50,000 from MEA to buy the first electric garbage truck in Maryland in October 2021. The city is waiting on a permit from Prince George’s County before Sparky can begin to make her official rounds, Riddle noted.  

“We just think it’s totally cool,” Riddle said. “I have had a lot of conversations with other municipalities. Lots of small towns in Massachusetts. So we’re pretty proud of good ol’ Sparky.” 

As an electric vehicle owner, Councilmember Danny Schaible (Ward 2) said that Hyattsville has a significant number of charging stations. “We want to provide the service in a greater capacity,” he added.   

On the verge of action

The Hyattsville Environment Committee recently supported the draft county climate action plan, which currently includes three recommendations that address county energy use. 

One recommendation addresses increasing the county’s use of solar energy. According to the plan, up to “80% of buildings without solar PV [photovoltaic system] in our region are viable for a roof-mounted solar PV installation.” Currently, only 6% of residential and commercial electric accounts reflect use of solar energy.  

The recommendation would connect residents with educational resources and financing opportunities, with the aim of installing an additional 60,000 solar panels in the county by 2030.

A second recommendation addresses deep energy retrofits and community-wide energy efficiency. Deep energy retrofits are aimed at  improving the energy efficiency of systems that provide heat and power to a building; these systems generally include lighting, HVAC, windows and electrical systems. The county has secured funding to complete one deep energy retrofit at a senior center in Camp Springs and plans to upgrade the energy efficiency of at least 30 other buildings over the next 10 years. 

A third recommendation is to increase the number of electric vehicles in the community as soon as 2024. 

There are about 620,000 vehicles on the road in the county. “To support the goal of 50% emissions reduction by 2030, Prince George’s County aims to have at least 15% of those vehicles powered by electricity,” according to the draft plan. 

Schaible said that the county should be able to easily reach its renewable energy goals. 

“Environmental considerations aside, it’s the most cost-effective means of generating that power,” Schaible said. “Hyattsville will be part of this transformation, but I also think we’ll be on the leading edge of that transition.” 

Ilana Williams is an intern with the Hyattsville Life & Times.