Maryland pilot program would add 200 MW of community solar

Monday is a big day for community solar in Maryland, officially bringing to an end a two-year process that will establish ground rules to add approximately 200 MW of community solar to the state’s portfolio.

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) will begin accepting applications from solar developers who are interested in participating in the three-year pilot program. According to the commission, the program will allow all Maryland ratepayers the opportunity to invest in solar without the expense of installing panels on their own roofs. It will also set aside capacity to accommodate low- and moderate-income customers.

In addition, the PSC hopes the program will:

  • Attract new investment in Maryland’s renewable infrastructure and green economy;
  • Allow renters to contract for solar energy with the same benefits as rooftop owners;
  • Create separate program capacity for small systems and systems built on brownfields, parking lots, or industrial areas;
  • Allow smaller and rural service territories to make use of existing solar facilities while encouraging construction of new systems in the urban and suburban areas of Maryland;
  • Include significant consumer protections, including prohibition against unreasonable fees and clear contract disclosure requirements; and
  • Allow the Commission Staff to collect necessary data to study the impact on Maryland’s electricity grid over the three-year pilot program.

Approved operators, known as subscriber organizations, could enroll customers starting this summer. After official approval, subscriber organizations must file interconnection requests with utilities and then apply for project-capacity approval within the utility’s own specific community solar program. Projects will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until each utility’s program capacity has been met. Participating utilities include Baltimore Gas and Electric, Delmarva Power & Light, Potomac Edison and Potomac Electric Power Company.

Tony Clifford, chief development officer of Maryland-based Standard Solar, participated on the committee that helped develop the details of the program. He says he’s cautiously optimistic about the new community-solar pilot program, even though the solar landscape has changed since the initial discussions of the program began.

“It’s been a long process, but I think the PUC has done its due diligence and heard from everybody,” Clifford said. “There have been some projects waiting for the final go-ahead this entire time – and now they can finally get started.”