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February 16, 2010

Maryland aims for 100,000 solar rooftops in 10 years

Today, a bunch of legislators and business people plan to show their support for three solar related bills being considered by the General Assembly by gathering in a state office building and explaining how they will make it easier to use solar power, how they will create jobs and how they will lessen dependence on fossil fuels, according to Environment Maryland and the Maryland Energy Administration.

Environment Maryland says a quarter of Maryland homes are ready for solar panels that could capture energy that is now going unused. The group cites information from the International Center for Sustainable Development that shows the state gets about 196,000 gigawatt-hours of solar energy on a sunny summer day. That's more than what's produced at the state's mostly coal-fired power plants here in a year.

The move could reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution, as well as make energy distribution more efficient by creating it locally. It could also save consumers money and create local jobs, the group said.

Environment Maryland describes the three bills this way:

First, Gov. O’Malley has introduced legislation that would require a quicker ramp-up of the solar portion of the state’s renewable portfolio standard. This would mean that utilities would have to get a greater percentage of their energy portfolio from solar power sooner, which would jumpstart job creation and cut down on our emission of greenhouse gases.

Second, Del. Hecht and Sen. Middleton are leading an effort to introduce legislation that would give municipalities the means by which to loan people money for solar and other clean energy projects at very low interest rates, resulting in more homeowners taking advantage of the clean, reliable electricity that solar energy generation provides.

Finally, Dels. Pinsky and Hecht are working on "net-metering" legislation, which would require utilities to pay customers back for surplus energy they create with the solar panels on their roofs.

The state and federal government already do offer incentives for people to get panels as well as make other energy saving upgrades. Anyone of you have panels now? Anyone think they'll get them? Will these bills help?

Baltimore Sun file photo of solar panels/Jed Kirschbaum

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:23 AM | | Comments (42)
Categories: Going Green


I think the legislation is moving in the right direction. The only way to make this a viable and realistic endeavor is to make the panels easily available, financially beneficial, and to make the process uncomplicated. Worthwhile initiatives needs to be made simple and clear in order to produce the most productive results.

LOL...repeating a failure from the 70's

I installed a 5.2 watt solar panel system on our new house last September. Everything seems to be working great, but I have a major problem with BGE's current technology regarding net meters installed on solar home projects. Our meter supposedly "nets" the incoming (what we use) and outgoing (what we sell to BGE) electricity. But when I get my bill every month, there's only one "net number". BGE says "that's the way it works" ... the meter is accurate ... and you have to trust us. I think that HAS to change. My meter and my bill should clearly show the gross incoming and outgoing electricity, so that I can properly monitor and adjust my systems.

Good to see Governor O'Malley still pushing sustainable legislation, even when the economy has been making more of the headlines.

Capturing solar energy just makes plain common sense. If not for the vested interests of the big energy industries, we would be much further along with its implementation. To move it along quicker, it needs to be made more financially competitive.

I'd love to put one on my home! It's a new contruction so I can't imagine it would be difficult. Problem is, I can't afford it! I'd love to know more about how it can be done, and how I can pay for one. Anyone know?

I've always have to write this every time I see that BGE will cost even more for ME and MY ENTIRE MARYLAND FAMILY.

1st and foremost --> Any time this happens VA and PA get cheaper energy and MD gets more expensive "green" energy. Our retard govenor and assembly believes that a coal plant will turn off because of this.... wrong! they just sell to VA, PA.
2nd --> These "reps" should start and finish with themselves first. If it doesn't make sense for them it doesn't for me.
3rd--> Maryland owns a Nuclear power plant, why can't we upgrade that one instead of offsetting money to nothing?

A big waste of tax payers dollars.The State is already broke, where is this money comming from, MORE TAXES on the people of Maryland.

And why does there have to be BGE and MY energy bill involved in this.

People always could buy Solar panels for their roof. Let the "green" people buy panels for themselves. For every Prius I see on the road that could have went to enough solar panels to power your home for the rest of your life.

These "green" people do not need our welfare checks so they could buy solar panels.

Just another Martin O'Malley take Marylander money scam

It should NEVER be mandatory for me to pay for someone elses solar panels in my already too high BGE bill

The summaries of the three legislative efforts don't appear to help the residential market. I installed a 3.2 kW system on my roof 3 years ago, and received a total of $5,000 in tax credits from state and federal programs. So my net cost was $32,000. I produce about 5,000 kWh per year, which is great, and because my house is so efficient, I consume 30% less energy than the average 2,000 sf home. However, even if BGE pays me $.11 per kWh produced, you can do the math and see that it will take 58 years for payback.

Imagine if I had financed the installation of my solar system because the gov't has a "great" new plan to lend me money at a low interest rate. And let's say that the low interest rate is 4% for a 20 year term. That increases the payback period to 84 years. Maybe my children's children will see some benefit, if the panels last past their expected 50 year lifecycle.

Simple facts are this: the current incentives from state and fed tax credits can amount to as much as $10,000. That's a good start, but we've been fighting the laws of supply and demand. Germany puts solar panels on every new home. The Western US has major photovoltaic demand, because of solar exposure. If you want high efficiency photovoltaics in MD, you get put on a waiting list (which is what happened to me). When I looked for a licensed installer for my PV array, there were three in the state, and one went out of business.

Better incentives would include property tax reductions for residences with PV arrays. Currently, the state only says that they won't tax you on the value of your PV array, which I know from experience is meaningless.

The state shouldn't just demand BGE build new PV arrays to meet renewable energy quotas, tell them they must first reimburse residential customers with existing arrays at a 35% premium for the "green power" they return to the grid. That is what the bureaucratic LEED program requires of developers that want credits for green power use on their projects.

Most importantly, the state should eliminate the absolutely ignorant law that your system must shut down if you lose power form your utility provider. For those who don't know, if you are grid-tied (not a low voltage battery PV system), and you lose power from your electric supplier for any reason, your PV system must shut down. The inverter in your house will do this automatically, because it is the law. It does not matter if you have a 20 kW system that could power all of the demand in your entire neighborhood during the sunlight hors, your system must shut down. What an ignorant waste.

The simple truth is that if the front-end cost can't be reduced by at least 50%, it will never make financial sense to install a residential PV system.

I live on the water and would definately consider putting them on my roof, depending on how much it costs!

The first bill mentioned here, HB471, is a problem. The current Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) law created a market for utilities buying "SRECs" (Solar Renewable Energy Credits). Solar companies subsidized PV installations by selling the SRECs. The solar market grew so much, so fast, that now there is excess supply of - and no market demand - for further SRECs.

Now, the solar projects are still not financially viable without the SREC subsidy, so the Gov. wants to increase the RPS. But it won't work. Refer to today's Baltimore Business Journal - Constellation is investing in solar projects - so they won't have any need to buy SRECs, because they will meet the requirement themselves.

NotableM said: LOL...repeating a failure from the 70's

How so? Has technology not improved since the 70? Has the world not changed? Are you really living that deep into the past? And did you really laugh out loud when you typed LOL in caps? Did you type that on your Commodore? Are you still living in your mothers basement?

Technology is now finally available to pursue these technologies and people need to make it happen. Not because your legislature says so but because its economically and environmentally feasible.

Tim in Upperco. How much, on an average percentage, have you shaved off your total bill for the same month (e.g., Dec 2009 vs. Dec 2010)? Thanks

It might/would be worthwhile to invest in a system monitoring from the inverter manufacturer or company that provides solar system data monitoring to verify the functionality of the utility provided meter. Google "solar system monitoring." Have a sunny day!

If the State and the feds were serious about solar energy they would fund at least 90% of the cost not the pittance they do now. The State pays 100% for the those nitrogen reducing septic systems and the contractors cannot keep up with the demand. The same would happen with solar energy if the government was serious about it. There could also be a clunker bill for old furnaces, think how much oil would be saved if people could afford new efficient furnaces. So far its all smoke and mirrors no real help for the citizens of Maryland.

@jayslick - Your meant to reference "Eve's" comment, not "NotableM". Thanks.

Waste of money. Period. The payback on photovoltaic cells is abysmal. On the other hand, if we (Maryland) were to instead concentrate on using flat panel collectors to heat our domestic hot water and even provide some space heating in the cooler months as well, now we are talking about a solar technology that will pay back.

ha- ha - Solar Energy - sunny days in Maryland

The Naysayers need to back off. Solar energy IS a viable power source. I am ALL IN supporting the President, Governor, and anyone else who has the power to make this happen. It is obvious that those who control energy now (Big Oil and Coal) will fight this to the death. Those companies that are SMART see the opportunity to shift away from these OLD power sources and position themselves to take advantage of solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, Nuclear FUSION (not fission) (or NuCuLar as GWB was fond of mispronouncing).

Good luck getting BGE to actually pay the correct price for net metering. They insist that they must sell you the meter that records how much they are supposed to pay you for your excess energy? That's funny.
As far as the morons who post that we should just stick our heads in the sand and do nothing, BGE and Constellation energy have got their paid bloggers working overtime today.

Sorry bad it was Eve's comment that I was responding to.

Solar power, wind power and the other renewals are all great ideas and worth while ventures when economically and commercially feasible however none of these will ever bring enough power to the grid to sustain us or lower our excessive deman for coal, gas, and oil. The real answer is Nuclear Power....and no Eve we will not be building a 70's style Nuclear plant. We will harness the great technologies of today. They will be cleaner, amazingly efficient, 100 fold safer and more environmental friendly than ever.

Small Gov't, Smart Nation, Make it happen.

I thank god every day that I had enough common sense to move out of MD....

All of this will come at a cost. Maryland is one of the few states in the country that already has Cap and Tax Legislation in effect. Also, the only way to make solar power pricing competitive is with huge tax incentives. In other words, the budget deficit will grow even larger as money will be given to support a solar energy industry. The best way to promote renewable energy would be to invest in offshore windmills. Not only is it more efficient, but also more cost effective. Solar power is not cost effective and that is why you need tax incentives to pay for subsidies. The only other way it becomes price competitive is if fossil fuel skyrockets. The cap and tax legislation could do the trick. Drive up the price of fossil fuels so the price of renewable energy is comparable. Who really wins in this scenario? Also, keep in mind that for every green job created, 2 non-green jobs are lost. So, actually unemployment will go up even more. It is all a sham.

For all those "smart" people out there..... read Chip Keener's comment above. As for me, I paid for an "energy audit" of my house in 1997 and made the improvements the audit indicated. I have been enjoying the results ever since. I keep my house at 70 in the winter and 77 in the summer and my highest electric bill in the past 18 months has been $89. Do your homework and quit waiting for government handouts.....

why is nobody doing the real math
solar pv is a cash cow & not green by the way there made.

What provisions are there to automatically turn off current in photovoltaic solar panels in case of emergency?

If panels are broken and firemen are on the roof, they may be in danger.

These things are always great when somebody else is paying for a good part of it.

You solar supporters want it so bad, why do I have to subsidize it for you?

Wait wait wait... Are solar panels made in Maryland? Are they made in the US? Coal is produced in the US sadly. How does this help our state?

If you want to go green plant trees.
If you want to help Maryland... Help MARYLAND! not CHINA

These are good bills but they should be technology neutral. Solar may be good for some, more wealthy families, while rural families could offset same amount of fossil fuel with a modern, ultra-clean wood or pellet stove. Per ton of carbon, solar is a good, but expensive way to reduce fossil fuel use. To help working families, incentivizing the most modern, clean wood and pellet stoves is a bargain for the taxpayer. We are a Maryland-based group promoting this. Check us out at

Saying solar is "not green" is a blanket statement. Always research the manufacturer to determine if their practices are sustainable. Like any innovation, there is a learning curve and solar and other clean energy technologies will need to evolve so they're not creating other environmental problems.

Thin film solar is down to below $1.50/watt. All the payback periods and costs are far less then listed in the above comments if you purchase thin film panels.

Its funny how people that do not have solar and wind power at home, are the only people that are critical of solar power. The only reason they are critical of is because the are ignorant. You do not see a single person that went out did the research and bought solar for their home complaining because they understand the value of solar they receive on a daily basis.

People that are against solar, are simply not independent thinkers and just spew out lines they hear on fox, or right wing radio that amounts to propaganda paid for by energy companies (big oil). What do you expect big oil to do accept try to hold back solar, solar will put them out of business eventually, so the best defense they have is to lie. It reminds me allot of tobacco companies lobbying that cigarettes don't cause cancer. The same people arguing against solar are probably the same people that said cigarettes are not bad for you and are the same people that say there is no global warming.

That propaganda has no basis in reality, just try asking someone that has solar at home how they like it and you get the true story.

No Woodie731 - solar panels are NOT economically viable in Maryland, even with government (read: your tax dollars) subsidies. The payback is longer than the usable life of the panel. Maryland doesn't get enough sun - heck right now the panels would be buried under a foot of snow! The only thing this legislation does is benefit the solar panel makers and installers, who need these programs to stay in business.

This comment is for Chip...

The reason you must shut down your PV system during a power outage is that your system CAN'T power your entire neighborhood and would do nothing but endanger the lives of the crews trying to restore power and almost certainly damage your inverter. The "law" is actually part of the electrical code and is there to protect lives and YOUR PV system.

A simple, no cost option would be to update building codes to require all new homes to have their largest roof surface facing the proper direction to maximize the efficiency of any solar technology; PV or hot water. This way, a homeowner could choose to put up solar or not, and the next guy would have a decent platform if he chooses. The pitch of the roof could also be mandated however that may be a stretch.

Some of you are just poorly informed or are simply parroting the typical resistance designed to stall or kill renewable energy (or even enlightened discussion about renewable energy).

Number One: For all those poo pooing solar, the logic is simple...THE SUN IS AN UNLIMITED, OFF-PLANET source of energy. How can anything compete with that in terms of power and sustainability--be sure to answer this question in any reply or you simply have no credibility.

Number Two: If you are complaining about these incentives, how do you feel about the Oil Depletion Allowance? Are you as equally outraged and activist on that subject? Do you attack or boycott petroleum products as vociferously?

Look, it's time to kick the bad habit of consuming excessive amounts of energy generated by sources that foul our thin atmosphere to the extreme. If you doubt the effects of pollution on the planet, then you probably still cast doubt on whether or not tobacco products are healthy. Do you understand how your lungs work? Foul your air, foul your body. Its that simple.

Solar is not perfect, and there are nasty by-products of production, for sure. However, YOU CANNOT ARGUE WITH THE OVERWHELMING LOGIC THAT THE SUN IS BEST SOURCE OF ENERGY. After all, it is responsible for all life on earth.



Respectfully to J. Williama, Jim O'Hara and other skeptics and Encouragingly to those who fear you cannot afford sustainability. - Everyone who argues that solar panels are not worth the money or can not achieve pay back for 58 years is not recognizing the other (perhaps most important) part of the equation - reduced demand. Americans use an astonishingly high amount of energy compared to everyone else in the world. One cannot approach this problem from the supply end. One must approach it from first the demand end and reduce energy consumption. Then it becomes cost effective to install a system sized to meet that demand, particularly with the financing measures proposed by Delegate Hecht. If we can design you a house that uses 90% less energy (and we can) then you have a very reasonable sized solar system to zero out demand completely, and with financing, you are saving more than you are paying each month in an increased loan or tax payment. Even with retrofits we can accomplish astonishing energy savings (60% - 90% depending on initial investment) making the combined savings of efficiency and solar cash flow positive from day 1. The more ambitious one is with reductions of demand, the higher and sooner the pay back. (7 years is a reasonable assumption, but cash flow positive from first month) But let's be honest, the typical American family is incredibly wasteful without even knowing it. If those of you who are complaining about no pay back don't decide to take responsibility and change your consumption, you will never get the rewards financially, and you will put us all in deep water, (literally). Respectfully submitted by Michael Hindle, Brennan + Company Architects.

SOLAR MAID service is currently available in MD

Have your system maintenance done by the professionals at SOLAR MAID

Sadly, while solar energy is "green," the Governor's bill ramps up a wealth transfer that could cost Maryland electric ratepayers close to $2 billion over the next 15 year. It is a wealth transfer: the typical owners of solar installations are wealthy people who can afford to finance a $30,000 - $50,000 installation. They are being subsidized by every ratepayer in the state, including low-income and medium-income ratepayers.

I would wonder .. why not make a relay type item to disconnect the PV system from the grid during at outage? When the grid side loses power it disconnects. Then when power hits the relay from the grid side it reengages, or is thrown manually.
Seems like a simple solution, then if power is out.. I still have power and people are safe from my PV system.

One can always find a reason to NOT do something. It's the flip side of justification.
Sometimes it is necessary to take the long view and make a choice based on developing the greater good. This includes job creation and quality of life. No man made system designed to imitate nature will be perfect.
Merging our power needs with an overall strategy of increasing the percentage of our power generation through Solar & Wind is certainly the world I would like to see in my lifetime.
These current Bills exercise common sense on how to accelerate the production of cleaner energy generation while including individuals in the process.

Literally the Bills will help not only the people who uses it for alternative energy production but as well our environment. We can put a stop to the coal-fire powered plants that causes air pollution and later causes of destruction of nature. Two thumbs up for a very good bill that supports the green environment for the incoming generations. We need to preserve our environment for the next generation and we still do need energy. But in a way we should use, Yes!, unused energy coming from the sun. This is a very renewable source of energy we must use. We get sunlight daily. We have more solar power the whole year.

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About the bloggers
Tim WheelerTim Wheeler reports on the environment and Chesapeake Bay. A native of West Virginia, he has focused mainly on Maryland's environment since moving here in 1983. Along the way, he's crewed aboard a skipjack in the bay, canoed under city streets up the Jones Fall from the Inner Harbor, and gone deep underground in a western Maryland coal mine. He loves seafood, rambles in the country and good stories. He hopes to share some here.

Contributor Christy Zuccarini has been blogging about the local DIY craft scene for a year for She brings her pespective on all things handmade to B'More Green, where she will highlight projects you can do yourself as well as crafters who are integrating sustainable methods and materials.

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