Maryland PSC approves community solar pilot program

maryland community solar

The Maryland Public Service Commission has approved final regulations to establish a community solar pilot program in Maryland, with an emphasis on providing renewable energy benefits for low and moderate income customers. The regulations are expected to be published on July 8, 2016 in the Maryland Register and will become final 10 days later (July 18).

The regulations initiated from legislation (HB 1087) passed in the 2015 Maryland General Assembly session and signed by Governor Larry Hogan, and were considered in a rule making process docketed by the Commission as RM56.

“This pilot program will implement the General Assembly’s desire to increase access to solar electricity for all Maryland ratepayers, especially low and moderate income customers,” said W. Kevin Hughes, PSC Chairman. “In addition, it will encourage private investment in Maryland’s solar industry and diversify the state’s energy resource mix to meet the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act goals.”

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Under the proposed regulations, the three-year community solar pilot program will:

• Provide access to solar-generated electricity – in a manner similar to rooftop solar and net metering – for all Maryland customers without requiring property ownership;

• Incentivize solar companies to provide service to low- and moderate-income customers;

• 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;

• Set aside program capacity for each area of the state with a statewide cap of over 200 MW.  About 60 MW is set aside for projects focused on low and moderate income customers;

• 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 data necessary data and study the impact on Maryland’s electricity grid over the three-year pilot program.

— Solar Builder magazine

Maryland governor vetoes Clean Energy Jobs Act, industry responds

maryland solar bill
MDV-SEIA said that it is “depply disappointed” that Governor Hogan vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act especially considering Hogan ran his campaign on supporting jobs in Maryland.

“Honestly, we’re confused. Governor Hogan ran his campaign on supporting Maryland jobs. That’s what our industry brings. This veto puts thousands of solar jobs and hundreds of local companies at risk. Moreover, this veto endangers the livelihood of thousands of Marylanders and will stall millions in economic investment,” said Omar Terrie, Policy Director for MDV-SEIA.

Nearly three-quarters of Maryland voters, 71 percent, support expanding Maryland’s clean energy standard to 25 percent by 2020. Support crosses political party lines. A majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents support the Clean Energy Jobs Act. There is wide support for this proposal across the state-in rural, urban and suburban communities. Hogan clearly did not listen to the will of the people that put him in office.

RELATED: Maine solar bill defeated by larger installer lobbying effort — did it hurt the local installer? 

Hogan wrote in his letter to Speaker Bush explaining his reasoning for the veto that “under the existing law, Maryland retains its status as a national leader.” The Governor’s veto leaves the state with a lackluster RPS that is far from the leaderboard.

“We encourage Governor Hogan to engage with the industry to learn more about local solar businesses and jobs so that this type of shortsighted decision, which will have severe impacts on the industry’s growth, is not repeated in the future,” the group stated.

— Solar Builder magazine

University of Maryland gets $50,000 grant for solar cooling system project

The Dominion Foundation presented the University of Maryland with a $50,000 educational grant — part of Dominion’s Higher Educational Partnership — that was one of 40 awarded to colleges and post-secondary schools to fund projects in energy, environmental studies, engineering and workforce development.

dominion solar powerMaryland’s project, “Design of Efficient Solar Cooling System with High Coefficient of Performance,” is led by Department of Mechanical Engineering Research Professor Yunho Hwang and aims to model, design, fabricate and test a new solar cooling system that exceeds current efficiency standards.

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“In the U.S., cooling and heating systems are responsible for 63% of building energy use,” explained Hwang. “Therefore, utilizing solar energy to provide cooling and heating for buildings will contribute to saving energy and conserving our environment.”

“We are proud to support the University of Maryland and give students an opportunity to solve an important, real-world engineering challenge,” said Mike Frederick, vice president of liquefied natural gas (LNG) operations at the Dominion Cove Point LNG terminal in Lusby, Md. “Education and the environment have always been important to Dominion and Cove Point and this project matches up well with our ongoing commitment to both.” The Dominion Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources, parent company of Dominion Cove Point.

In addition to Hwang, the UMD research team includes three Mechanical Engineering students, juniors Jonathan Kagan and Joseph Baker, and graduate student Tao Cao. Through this research project, the students will gain a better understanding of the technologies for sustainable energy conversion and utilization, and through this hands on experience, they will learn the challenges and opportunities in designing sustainable energy systems.

This grant was given by the Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources, Inc., which is the parent company of Dominion Cove Point LNG, LLC, Lusby, MD.

— Solar Builder magazine

Pocomoke City Goes with 2.1 MW System from SunEdison

Pocomoke SunEdison solar panels field blue sky

SunEdison Inc., the world’s largest renewable energy development company, today announced the completion of a 2.1 megawatt solar energy system that will supply electricity to Maryland’s Pocomoke City’s wastewater treatment plant via a 20 year power purchase agreement. These projects were on the TerraForm Power call right list and have been acquired and are now owned by TerraForm Power Inc., a global owner and operator of clean energy power plants.

The Pocomoke City solar system is designed to produce more energy than the on-site facility needed. Under aggregated net metering, other buildings owned by Pocomoke City can share the output of these solar systems, even if they are not physically connected to them or are on a different meter.

“Aggregated net metering is an innovative way for nonprofits, farms, and municipalities to maximize electricity savings and meet their carbon reduction goals with minimal capital up-front,” said Michael Volpe, Sales Director at SunEdison. “We’re proud to be working with Standard Solar, our development and EPC partner, on these opportunities.”

“Pocomoke City calls itself The Friendliest Town on the Eastern Shore, and, thanks to the foresight of city officials, it is well on its way to being known as the Greenest Town on the Eastern Shore,” said Tony Clifford, Chief Executive Officer of Standard Solar. “With no financial outlay required by Pocomoke City, sizeable savings in electricity costs, and positive contributions to its citizens’ environmental future, more and more municipalities are seeing the short- and long-term advantages of going solar.”

“Our appreciation goes out to SunEdison and Standard Solar, who introduced us to this innovative solution,” said Russell Blake, City Manager for Pocomoke City. “We’re using aggregated net metering to maximize savings on our electric bill.”

This project was made possible through Maryland’s Aggregated Net Metering Program, which is available for municipal institutions, agriculture and non-profits. Through its Renewable Portfolio Standard, the State of Maryland hopes to generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

— Solar Builder magazine