Community solar is coming to Maryland. Last week the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates utilities, finalized regulations to allow a three-year community solar pilot program in the state. Now renters will be allowed to contract for solar energy, as well as the estimated 60 - 80 percent of homeowners who are unable to install solar on their roofs because of structural or alignment issues, tree cover, or other barriers.
Al Bartlett, MD, who co-chairs Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility's Climate Health Action Team, and who authored Chesapeake PSR's comments to the PSC in support of community solar, said, "Anything we can do to expand solar in Maryland will make our state - which relies so heavily on coal-fired electricity generation - a healthier place."
Within the 200-megawatt (MW) cap, 60 MW is allotted for the benefit of low- to moderate-income energy consumers. "Our focus was on including a substantial carve-out for families with limited income who normally don't have access to the benefits of renewable energy," Dr. Bartlett said.
The new regulations, expected to come out in early July, will allow solar generation and renewable energy benefits to flow even to those who do not own property. The community solar program will encourage the development of energy-generating solar panels on community brownfields, rooftops, parking structures and other underused areas.
Maryland joins 14 states and the District of Columbia in providing community solar, which is designed to spur renewable energy investment in lower income areas, meet renewable portfolio standards, diversify energy sources, and clean the air. Maryland will also collect data on the program to determine the impact on the state's grid.
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