Residents of Montgomery County Maryland now have access to a cleaner, more local energy mix, as Summit Ridge Energy reached commercial operations on a 2.5 MW community solar project located in Spencerville.
TurningPoint Energy developed the project under the State of Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program, of which Summit Ridge Energy owns the market share, with 90 MW currently in operation. The array was built on Cedar Ridge Community Church’s (CRCC) property and will provide hundreds of subscribed households with lower monthly energy costs.
“This community solar project is the culmination of an excellent partnership between the community and County” Councilmember Tom Hucker said. “In 2018, I spearheaded ZTA 18-01 that allowed for larger solar projects like this one so we can better position ourselves to fight climate change and collectively reduce our carbon footprint.”
ZTA 18-01 was a zoning amendment, passed in 2018, which revised the county’s existing Solar Collection System use standards to allow larger facilities in Rural Residential, Residential, Commercial/Residential, Employment, and Industrial zones.
While the CRCC project is the county’s only ground-mount community solar project thus far, it won’t be for long. In 2021, Ameresco and Neighborhood Sun announced plans to construct a 6 MW project on the capped Oaks Landfill in Gaithersburg, just northwest of Washington, D.C. The 6 MW project will be divided into three 2 MW arrays, with Array 1 set to provide the county government with power. The remaining two arrays compose the community solar project with all of the generated electricity provided to low-to-moderate income residents.
Montgomery County has a local goal of eliminating greenhouse emissions in its operations by 2035, on top of the state of Maryland’s goal to generate 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
In September 2021 regulators in Maryland unanimously voted to expand the capacity of the state’s community solar program as well as improve access for low- and moderate-income (LMI) customer participation in the state’s Community Solar Pilot Program.
According to the Coalition for Community Solar Access, the expansion of the program will allow community solar to power the equivalent of an additional 6,840 Maryland homes, annually. The expansion also changed development regulations, allowing community solar projects to be built on clean-fill construction sites, transforming previously unusable industrial locations into clean solar energy generation sites.
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