First ever Maryland Solar Congress a success

Last Saturday was a bright and sunny day, the perfect backdrop for a gathering dedicated to solar energy. MD SUN’s held its first-ever Maryland Solar Congress at the Annapolis Friends Meeting House. Solar supporters from all over the state convened for four hours to learn about various solar topics as well as discuss the present and future of solar in Maryland.

After brief comments from MD SUN Program Director Corey Ramsden, Joelle Novey of Interfaith Power & Light and Bob Bruninga of Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis, the Congress got into full swing with a choice of educational workshops.

James McGarry from Chesapeake Climate Action Network gave a presentation on the past, present, and future of Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This topic is of particular interest to solar homeowners and supporters due to the role RPS regulations have on the value of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) and their impact on increasing solar adoption in the state. Discussion touched on the governor’s veto of legislation meant to expand the RPS in the state and efforts to override that veto in the 2017 legislative session.

Dr. Arjun Makhijani presented on what the “Grid of the Future” might look like in Maryland. Maryland’s upcoming “Grid of the Future” proceeding, about to kick off through the Maryland Public Service Commission, could significantly impact how solar is valued on the grid and how accessible it will be to Marylanders in the future. The proceeding will include a wide variety of topics that could affect all Marylanders and efforts are under way to encourage the Commission to structure the proceeding in a way that makes it accessible and encourages public involvement.

Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot was the topic of a presentation given by MD SUN Program Director Corey Ramsden. After providing an overview of program’s structure and current status the presentation stepped through each of the ways Marylanders can participate in the pilot from becoming a subscriber to a shared solar array to owning and operating an array to hosting one on their property. To wrap things up, Corey presented several possible community-owned array project models meant to spur discussion on keeping as much of the economic value of solar in a community as possible.

Community Power Network’s Emma Rodvein presented on Solar 101. This session covered solar basics from how the technology works on a residential property and the economics of solar in Maryland from available incentives to financing methods. Basic solar consumer information is at the core of MD SUN’s mission to help Marylanders go solar and build a network of solar supporters across the state.

During a light lunch break (made possible with generous donations from Chipotle and David’s Natural Market) attendees conferred in a relaxed patio setting. Interested participants were also treated to a tour of the facility’s solar array and charging stations.

In the afternoon, Community Power Network’s Executive Director, Anya Schoolman, facilitated an hour-long discussion on solar in Maryland. Congress members shared their views on a wide variety of topics. These included from the impact of community solar on farmland; grassroots involvement in Grid of the Future proceedings; energy affordability issues; and expanding access to and the benefits of solar to low-income Marylanders.

In addition to some great educational content and discussion, the Solar Congress enabled attendees from all over Maryland to get to know each other over lunch, in side chats and, following the Congress, at a happy hour setting at nearby solar-powered Killarney House. The restaurant generously made several gift certificates available for raffle and reserved a spot on their patio for the group.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Congress and contributed their voice to the discussion. Where should the next Solar Congress be? Is this a yearly event or every other year? Help shape the direction of MD SUN and our efforts across Maryland by getting involved.