Maryland greenlights 192.1 MW in community solar projects

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) finalized rules yesterday for a three-year community solar pilot program designed to encourage 192.1 MW of development.

Initially, the PSC considered pilot programs totaling 225 MW based on 10-year peak demand projections originally calculated in 2014. Instead, the commission decided to use formula that included a 1.5% of  actual 2015 peak demand, which resulted in the lower number.

Under the new rules, utilities have 15 days to file community-solar rates with the commission and instructs the PSC staff to finalize a start date for the application process as soon as reasonably possible. Projects will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Solar installers had advocated for allowing the entire three-year capacity to be available from Year One, meaning that projects that weren’t immediately accepted would join a waiting list in Year Two and so on. The commission ultimately rejected that petition, citing concerns that such a plan could limit the diversity of projects that would make it into the queue.

Reaction to the new rules was swift and overwhelming positive.

“The new community solar program offers a big opportunity to expand the solar market, bringing clean energy, jobs and solar savings to Maryland residents,” said Tom Matzzie, Founder and CEO of CleanChoice Energy. “More solar means cleaner air, healthier lungs, a greener world. We’re very excited to do business in Maryland.”

Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), congratulated the PSC on its decision.

“CCSA industry members are ready to get to work building projects and expanding access to solar for all in Maryland,” Cramer said. “With today’s Commission decision, we believe Maryland is now positioned to become one of the top five community solar markets in the nation.”

The finalized plans come approximately six months after the utilities submitted their plans and suggestions about how the program should be structured.