Earlier this week Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) approved regulations establishing a community solar pilot program in the state. The pilot has a focus of making sure community solar is accessible by low-income people in the state.
Under the 200 megawatt pilot program roughly 60 megawatts of community solar is set aside for projects focused on low and moderate income customers, the PSC said. It also will allow smaller and rural service territories in the state to use of existing solar facilities for community solar projects and will encouraging construction of new systems in the urban and suburban areas of Maryland.
The three-year pilot will incentivize solar companies to offer the service to low- and moderate-income customers and allow renters access to solar power even when they can’t install it on their dwelling. Basically it will be like virtual net metering for those that purchase part of a community solar project. When the system generates electricity customers that purchase a part of the system will get the power from their portion of the system and their electric bill will be created for that electricity.
“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.”
The program also will create a separate program capacity for small systems and systems built on brownfields, parking lots, or industrial areas, according to the PSC.
Maryland becomes the 14th state (and Washington, D.C.) to enact a community solar program. Over the past few years such programs have gained popularity across the country and have been installed in Colorado, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts and a handful of other states. Community solar also is expected to rocket in growth in the next few years. For instance, an NREL report last year speculated that community solar projects could be half of all the US’s distributed solar power by 2020.Tweet