Across the U.S. and Maryland, solar power is booming as a source of energy, benefiting consumers, communities, and our climate. Solar energy not only reduces our carbon footprint and decreases air pollution, but it is quickly overtaking fossil fuels as the leading job creator in the energy sector. The number of solar jobs in the U.S. has more than doubled in five years. In fact, there are more people working in solar now than at oil rigs and in gas fields.
In Maryland, the benefits of solar electricity will soon be available to everyone — even if you don’t have your own sunny rooftop.
In the fall of 2016, Maryland is launching a community solar pilot program, thanks to state legislation that CCAN and our allies helped to pass in 2015. We are partnering with community groups and solar developers to spread the word and connect thousands more Maryland families to the benefits of solar.
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What is Community Solar?
Maryland’s community solar pilot program allows families to take advantage of the cost savings of solar without having to own their home or install equipment on their property.
Community solar allows customers that rent, have shady roofs, or are otherwise unable to install solar on their residences or commercial buildings to buy or subscribe to a portion of a shared solar system. The subscriber’s share of the electricity generated by the project is credited to their electricity bill, just as if the solar system were located at the home or business.
How Does it Work?
Under Maryland’s community solar program, households can own or subscribe to a small share (two kilowatts or more) of a larger solar project that is sited in their community, but not on their property. The solar project delivers all the power it produces into the grid, and the local utility redistributes this power among its customers. The household then receives a credit on their monthly utility bill for the amount of electricity their share of the system produced. This arrangement is called “virtual net-metering.”
Solar projects may vary from community to community, depending on the solar developer, the utility company that serves the region, and the customer’s requirements. Yet, no matter the structure of the project, all of the projects will be designed so that solar subscribers will see lower rates. This is welcome news in the wake of the disastrous Exelon-Pepco merger. Mere weeks after getting final approval for its merger, the energy behemoth Exelon-Pepco filed for massive rate hikes in Maryland.
Developers are just now getting started putting together community solar projects. The Maryland Public Service Commission released draft guidance for regulating the state’s new community solar pilot program in February 2016. CCAN supports the pilot program, as proposed. We expect programs to start coming online in the fall of 2016.
Sign up to let us know you’re interested in community solar, and we’ll let you know as soon as projects get off the ground!
Who Can Sign Up?
Importantly, Maryland’s program sets aside 30 percent of the total project cap for solar installations that serve low and moderate income households — the working families of our community.
This commitment to making solar accessible to everyone is critical because, even as solar electricity takes off, working families account for only a small fraction of all residential solar installations. This problem is stark in Maryland. According to the Center for American Progress, only one percent of residential solar has been installed in Maryland communities where median household incomes are below $40,000. Maryland’s community solar program is a major step towards a more equitable clean energy economy.
Have any questions or want to get involved in bringing community solar in your neighborhood? Email Jamshid Bakhtiari, CCAN’s Healthy Communities Campaign Coordinator, at email@example.com.
Groundswell blog post on Maryland’s commitment to low- to moderate-income customers: http://groundswell.org/what-marylands-new-guidelines-mean-for-community-solar/
Blog post from solar developer Neighborhood Sun on the Maryland regulations: http://www.neighborhoodsun.solar/blog/a-few-highlights-from-the-new-maryland-community-solar-program
More in-depth information on community solar programs from the U.S. Department of Energy: http://apps3.eere.energy.gov/greenpower/community_development/community_solar_faq.html