Subscriber organizations wishing to build and operate a community solar project can apply to join the program starting on April 10th, 2017. An initial batch of approvals of these organizations will be released by the PSC in late May. Starting in June, 2017 subscriber organizations will begin to apply to get each of their projects connected to the grid and subsequently request space in the program for each project (by utility territory). Once a project has been given space in the program, subscriber organizations will begin seeking subscribers/customers. The timing for this will vary by project but we expect subscriber organizations to begin looking for subscribers by late Summer/early Fall of 2017.
The sun shines everywhere in Maryland. But too few of us could take advantage until now. Community, or shared, solar makes it possible for anyone with an electric bill to access solar energy, even if they can’t put it where they live. Shared solar means photovoltaic (PV) systems can be somewhere else in the community (in a field, on a building, over a parking lot, and more) but provide the benefits of solar electricity to participating subscribers.
What are the benefits of community solar?
Signing up to participate in a community solar project means buying clean, renewable solar energy, as well as possibly reducing the cost of your electricity. The value of the solar energy you buy will be credited to your utility bill. You may have a choice of projects available in your area. Some of these projects may have other benefits like creating jobs in the community or income for local organizations.
How can I participate?
|Subscribe to community solar||Start a community solar project||Host a community solar project|
Subscribe to community solar energy
Community solar projects will come in all shapes and sizes. Some projects may let you buy energy monthly. Others may ask you to pay for it all up front and save more in the long run. Some may be owned by communities. Others may be through national companies. Whatever your preference, there are important questions to consider as you decide what’s right for you. Check out the shopping guide below or tell us if you’d be interested in subscribing to community solar.
Shopping for Community Solar
What should I know before subscribing?
Before subscribing to any particular project, ask for and review the subscriber organization’s subscriber agreement. These agreements should address things like the cost of the subscription, the length of the contract, termination fees, and more. Read it carefully and ask questions before signing.
What is a subscriber organization?
A subscriber organization is registered with the Maryland Public Service Commission to own or operate a Community Solar Energy Generating System (CSEGS). The subscriber organization does the following:
- Offers subscriptions to customers (subscribers)
- Communicates with the utility company to make sure the solar energy is credited to each customer on their energy bill
- Bills customers for the solar energy they buy
- Provides customer support to subscribers
- Maintains the solar facility for its lifespan (25+ years)
Will the energy from community solar be cheaper than what I pay now?
It should be! But, check the agreement from the provider and make sure you know what the cost per kilowatt-hour will be now, and what it could be in the future. There are several likely options for the price:
- It will go up by a certain percent each year.
- It will go up in the future but always stay less than the current cost of utility energy by a certain percent.
- It will stay the same for the entire contract.
What am I buying?
In most cases, community solar offerings will be to buy energy that’s produced by the solar array. This is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh) and is the same thing you buy from your current energy company. Some projects may offer you the option to buy a portion of the solar array upfront. In that case you are buying kilowatts (kW) or the capacity to produce energy. Depending on how many kilowatts you buy you will get a certain number of kilowatt-hours produced each month and applied to your energy company bill as a credit.
Will community solar save me money in the future?
It should! But it’s important to know how that saving happens. Over time, savings will come from the difference between what are you paying for community solar vs. what you would have paid for the same number of kilowatt-hours from your energy company. There are two key factors: whether your solar energy costs go up over time and how much the cost of energy from your energy company will go up in that same period.
Are there other fees included?
In addition to your charge for energy are there any other monthly or yearly fees for maintenance or administrative purposes? Check the agreement to see or ask the sales person.
How much of my energy bill will come from solar?
Do you know how much electricity you use on a monthly or yearly basis? This will be shown on your electricity bill. Your community solar provider should tell you how much of that total energy will now be coming from solar. It could be anywhere up to 200% of the total energy you use on a yearly basis. In most cases, subscribers will be best off by making sure they only subscribe for up to 100% of their total energy usage. Any energy you buy above 100% will get paid back to you at the end of the year by the energy company, but probably at a lower rate than what you originally paid for it.
Who owns the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) for the project?
According to the regulations the subscriber organization owns the rights to all of the renewable energy credits that the system makes. In most cases the value of those credits is being used to pay for the system and is built into the price you are paying.
Will I get to take the federal tax credit for solar if I subscribe?
In most cases the answer is no. The project owner will take that credit to help pay for the whole system. As a subscriber you are buying energy (kWh) and not a share in the system itself. However, in some projects that divide up long-term ownership of the system among all participants, you may be able to take the tax credit on your portion of the system’s cost.
What should be disclosed in my contract?
There are several key items that should be covered in plain language in your contract:
- Contract price
- Term length
- Additional charges
- Early termination fees and requirements
- Renewal fees and conditions
- Dispute resolution procedures
- Insurance held by subscriber organization
- System maintenance details
- Company contact information
- Performance guarantees on the energy produced (if offered)
What should I know about a project and its operators?
Community solar projects will be owned by a variety of different types of organizations for different purposes. Here are some questions to consider as you make your decision:
- Who owns the project? Is it community-owned?
- Who operates it and how long have they been in business?
- Are there a performance guarantees on the energy produced?
- What insurance is in place to protect subscribers?
- Are there any local benefits from the project, like jobs created?
How will I know how much energy the community solar facility is producing?
Will you have access to reporting online or in a monthly statement from your subscriber organization that shows how much energy the system produced overall and your share? Will it show how much will be credited for on your next energy company bill?
- Sign up for updates
- What is community solar? downloadable guide
- Shopping for Community Solar downloadable guide
- SEIA/CCSA Residential Guide for Community Solar
- MD SUN Solar Congress Community Solar Presentation – October, 2016 (courtesy of Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath)
See any information missing here that you’d like included? Tell us!
Start a community solar project in your area
Locally owned and operated community solar projects are a great way to keep even more of the economic value in your community. Groups and individuals across Maryland are considering whether it makes sense for them to do this and share the benefits with others in their community. Is owning a community solar project right for you? We’ll be adding resources here in the coming months. In the meantime, if you’re interested in starting your own community solar project get in touch with us.
- Public Service Commission program page
Host a community solar project
Landowners have a special place in community solar projects. Without space, community solar projects can’t happen. Whether it’s a rooftop, a parking lot, an open field, or an old industrial park, community solar offers the chance to put that space to use and share the economic value with community members who subscribe.
What do landowners need to know when considering whether to lease their land to a community solar project? Here are some resources that can help.