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  • Writer's pictureTiana Starks

Solar Power Pilot Program Launched in Maryland

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Maryland has launched a pilot program that will allow anyone to power their home with solar panels — even if they are renters, condo-dwellers or live in the shade of trees.

Solar developers are looking for hundreds of residents to subscribe to six power projects planned across the state, including recently announced sites in Owings Mills and Westminster. Their offers include discounts off standard electric rates.

Maryland leaders bill the state as a pacesetter in green energy, offering renewable power projects millions of dollars in subsidies since 2004 that come from residents’ electricity bills.

But much of the money is going to projects projects that are far from clean. It supports paper mills, such…

The idea of the community solar program is to tap into the pool of residential customers who don’t want to get their energy from fossil fuels but currently have no way to switch to a cleaner alternative.

That could significantly expand demand for solar projects, said Gary Skulnik, a longtime Maryland solar entrepreneur.

Skulnik is now CEO of Neighborhood Sun, a company recruiting customers for the six projects.

“You’re signing up for a project that won’t exist unless we get enough subscribers,” Skulnik said. “You’re actually getting a new project built.”

It could also stoke simmering conflicts over what sort of land is appropriate for solar development.

The General Assembly authorized the community solar pilot program in 2015. But not-in-my-backyard opposition and concerns about the loss of agricultural land have slowed progress.

A coalition of environmentalists, clergy and solar and wind energy companies launched a campaign Wednesday calling for half of Maryland’s electricity to come from renewable sources.

That would double a policy adopted last year requiring that renewable energy account for 25 percent of the state’s…

Community solar could force more communities to confront those sorts of clashes — and to consider more carefully where solar farms belong.

“We are going to see a lot more solar development in the state,” said Megan Billingsley, assistant director of the Valleys Planning Council in Baltimore County. “One of the things we haven’t seen is any direction or thoughtful planning on where we want to see solar development.”

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