Maryland has progressively adopted solar energy and implemented solar-friendly legislation to promote clean electricity and reduce carbon emissions. These Maryland solar laws, overseen by the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) and the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), provide guidelines on solar energy production, net metering, renewable portfolio standards, and community solar projects. These regulations ensure an efficient, sustainable, and responsible transition toward renewable energy within Maryland.

Understanding Maryland’s solar laws is essential for residents, businesses, and local governments. The laws address various aspects of solar energy, including utility-scale facilities, land use, regulations, and incentives. Recent legislative developments, such as the Clean and Renewable Energy Standard (CARES) and HB 908, demonstrate Maryland’s commitment to increasing solar capacity and clean electricity production throughout the state.

Key Takeaways

  • Maryland’s solar laws provide guidelines for solar energy production, net metering, and renewable portfolio standards.
  • The Maryland Energy Administration and the Maryland Public Service Commission play vital roles in overseeing and implementing solar regulations.
  • Recent legislation, such as CARES and HB 908, reflect Maryland’s commitment to clean electricity and sustainable solar energy growth.

Understanding Maryland Solar Laws

Maryland has been proactive in promoting solar energy and implementing relevant laws. In recent years, the state has seen significant growth in solar capacity and seeks to increase renewable energy use further. The Maryland General Assembly has passed several laws and regulations that encourage the deployment of solar energy systems.

Frederick, Maryland

The state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) sets a target of 50% renewable energy by 2030, up from the previous mark of 25% by 2020. The Clean and Renewable Energy Standard (CARES) proposed by Governor Larry Hogan sets Maryland on a path to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2040, with zero carbon emissions.

Maryland offers residents various incentives and programs to facilitate solar energy system installation, like net metering. Net metering allows homeowners with solar panels on their roofs to get credits for the excess electricity they produce. It offsets their future energy bills, with no limit on how much electricity a utility can credit to the consumer’s account.

In addition to residential solar installations, Maryland has also established provisions for utility-scale solar facilities. Companies must obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to develop large-scale projects. The CPCN application process ensures that utility-scale solar facilities are adequately reviewed and adhere to state regulations.

Furthermore, the state has expanded access to clean energy through community solar initiatives. Maryland became the 23rd community solar state after the Governor signed community solar legislation, HB 908. This law enables residents, including low- and moderate-income households, to benefit from solar power generated by shared solar installations.

In summary, Maryland solar laws and legislation demonstrate the state’s commitment to promoting renewable energy use, providing incentives, and ensuring environmentally sound practices. As a result, the state continues to witness growth in solar energy capacity. It is vital in America’s transition to a clean energy future.

Role of Maryland Public Service Commission

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) plays a significant role in overseeing and regulating the state’s solar energy markets, policies, and projects. As a part of their responsibilities, the PSC establishes and enforces rules and regulations around solar energy.

City Hall of Baltimore

One of the critical policies the PSC is involved in is Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS mandates that at least 14.5% of electricity sold in Maryland in 2028 and later must come from solar resources. This regulation demonstrates the PSC’s commitment to promoting renewable energy sources within the state.

In addition to overseeing the RPS program, the PSC also administers the Community Solar Pilot Program. This pilot program aims to make renewable energy benefits accessible to low and moderate-income customers. By encouraging the development of solar projects for a broader range of consumers, the PSC demonstrates its commitment to equitably distributing the benefits of renewable energy.

A Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) must be obtained from the PSC for energy generation facilities, including utility-scale solar facilities. This certificate ensures that developers comply with state regulations and environmental standards, helping to balance the state’s energy needs with the need for environmental protection.

The Maryland Public Service Commission is crucial in promoting solar energy and ensuring its accessible and sustainable development. The PSC helps Maryland transition towards cleaner, renewable power sources through various policies, programs, and regulations.

Important Solar Terms and Measures

To understand Maryland’s solar laws, being familiar with various solar terms and measures is crucial. This section briefly overviews these concepts, focusing on kilowatt-hours, credits, efficiency, and percentages.

Solar terms to understand

kilowatt-hour (kWh) measures energy that represents the power consumed or generated over one hour. It is commonly used to quantify the electricity used by residential or commercial consumers. A kWh can measure the electricity a solar photovoltaic (PV) system produces in solar energy. For instance, a 5 kW solar system may generate 25 kWh of electricity on a sunny day.

Credits are incentives the utility company or government awards to solar energy users for generating electricity. In Maryland, solar customers can benefit from “net energy metering” credits. This means that when solar panels generate a surplus of electricity, they can be fed back into the grid, and the consumer receives credits to offset their future electricity bills. In addition to net-energy metering credits, Maryland offers a variety of financial incentives and rebates.

Efficiency is an essential factor in determining the performance of a solar PV system. It refers to the percentage of solar energy hitting the solar panel converted into usable electricity. The higher the efficiency, the more electricity the solar panels generate. Solar panel efficiency typically ranges from around 15% to 22%. Factors influencing efficiency include:

  • Type and quality of solar cells.
  • Angle and orientation of the panels.
  • Intensity of sunlight and annual sun hours.

The percentage of renewable energy in Maryland’s energy mix is governed by the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS sets targets for utilities to produce a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources, like solar power. Maryland has increased its RPS target to 50% renewable energy by 2030. Gov. Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan proposed the Clean and Renewable Energy Standard (CARES) initiative to reach 100% clean electricity by 2040.

Understanding these solar terms and measures is essential for comprehending the intricacies of Maryland’s solar laws and the factors that impact solar energy adoption in the state.

Net Metering and Energy Storage in Maryland

Maryland promotes solar energy generation by implementing net metering and energy storage policies. Residents and businesses can benefit from these policies, as they allow for compensation and efficient use of clean energy produced by solar panel systems.

Smart Meter tracks solar system production, this is known as net energy metering

Net metering in Maryland allows owners of solar energy systems to receive credits for the excess energy they generate. According to the Maryland Code §7-306 and COMAR 20.50.10, plans eligible for net metering must have a capacity below two megawatts (MW) or not exceed 200 percent of the owner’s annual baseline electricity usage. By implementing net metering, residential and commercial property owners can offset their energy bills with the solar energy they produce.

Energy storage is another crucial aspect of Maryland’s solar laws and regulations. Energy storage solutions, such as batteries, allow solar system owners to store excess energy generated by their panels for later use. This increases the efficiency and value of solar installations and helps reduce reliance on the grid. The Maryland Power Plant Research Program has published policy recommendations and regulatory options for promoting energy storage and its benefits within the state.

In summary, Maryland supports adopting solar energy by offering net metering and encouraging energy storage for residential and commercial use. By utilizing these policies, solar system owners can maximize the benefits of clean energy while reducing their electricity bills through savings and contributing to a more sustainable environment.

Land Use for Solar Energy Production

In Maryland, solar energy production has become increasingly popular. As a result, the state has implemented several laws and regulations to ensure responsible land use for solar energy production. These regulations focus on minimizing the impact on valuable farmland, landfills, brownfields, and forest land while promoting clean energy.

Ground mount solar install

The Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting Interim Report estimates that between 2020 and 2030, 29,276 acres, including 26,348 acres of farmland, could be consumed by utility-scale solar facilities. To balance agricultural preservation and renewable energy development, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) adopted final regulations allowing limited commercial alternative energy production, including solar, on MALPF-protected farmland.

Solar projects can be developed on closed landfills and brownfields, as these areas are considered underutilized land resources. By producing solar energy systems located in landfills and brownfields, Maryland supports clean energy while reducing the overall environmental footprint of these sites.

In addition to farmland, landfills, and brownfields, Maryland also considers the impact of solar energy development on forest land. The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) oversees the approval process for utility-scale solar projects. It must consider various factors, including impacts on forests, wildlife, and water resources.

Maryland’s solar energy laws and regulations reflect a balanced approach, promoting clean energy production while safeguarding valuable natural resources. By focusing on responsible land use, the state ensures the long-term sustainability of its solar energy industry. It minimizes potential negative impacts on the environment.

Utility-Scale Solar Facilities in Maryland

Utility-scale solar facilities hold paramount importance in Maryland’s renewable energy initiatives. These large-scale projects generate significant amounts of power from solar panels, contributing to a greener and more sustainable energy landscape. Developing and implementing these utility-scale solar projects in the state involves various laws, regulations, and approvals.

Large scale solar install

Applicants for energy generation facilities, such as utility-scale solar facilities, must seek and obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) unless an exemption is granted. The PSC is crucial in determining the appropriate location and specifications for these projects, ensuring they adhere to the state’s legal and environmental guidelines.

Several factors influence the siting of utility-scale solar facilities, such as proximity to existing transmission lines. Projects farther away from these lines can become cost-prohibitive, making their development more challenging. Additionally, local zoning restrictions and buffer requirements may impose limitations on constructing solar power plants. However, the Maryland PSC can overrule such siting limits if necessary.

Maryland mainly focuses on minimizing the impact of utility-scale solar projects on farmland and other natural resources. According to the Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting, it is estimated that between 2020 and 2030, around 29,276 acres, including 26,348 acres of farmland, could be consumed by utility-scale solar facilities. Consequently, state authorities strive to balance promoting renewable energy solutions and preserving the state’s agricultural and ecological heritage.

In conclusion, developing utility-scale solar facilities in Maryland involves:

  • Obtaining necessary approvals from the PSC.
  • Adhering to state-specific guidelines.
  • Ensuring minimal impact on agricultural land.

As the state continues to advance its renewable energy efforts, a careful and responsible approach to siting utility-scale solar projects remains essential.

Renewable Portfolio Standard and Clean Electricity in Maryland

Maryland’s commitment to renewable energy has been reinforced through its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program since 2004. The RPS is an essential component driving the state’s development and use of renewable energy resources. It ensures that a specific percentage of the energy consumed in Maryland is generated from renewable sources, thereby reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The RPS was set in motion to help the United States meet it's renewable energy goals

The state has continuously demonstrated its dedication to the growth of renewable energy resources, significantly increasing its RPS target. Initially, Maryland set a goal of achieving 25% renewable energy by 2020. However, in 2019, Governor Larry Hogan raised the target to 50% by 2030. This increase in target demonstrates the state’s ongoing commitment to renewable energy.

Governor Hogan introduced the Clean and Renewable Energy Standard (CARES) in 2019 to further solidify Maryland’s clean energy objectives. CARES pushes for 100% clean electricity by 2040 with zero carbon emissions. The CARES initiative works with the RPS to promote renewable energy development, encourage investment in clean energy technologies, and provide environmental and consumer benefits.

Solar energy plays a pivotal role in Maryland’s renewable energy landscape. Over the years, the state has significantly expanded its solar energy capacity. In line with the RPS and CARES initiatives, Maryland aims to increase further solar-generated power to achieve its targets.

Impact of Legislation HB 908 on Solar

Legislation HB 908 has made significant changes to the solar landscape in Maryland. By making the Community Solar Energy Generating Systems Pilot Program permanent, the state aims to further community solar capacity and expand access to clean energy for a broader range of residents, including low-income and moderate-income households.

Maryland's General Assembly passes HB 908
Maryland’s General Assembly: Image source: BaltimoreSun

One essential requirement of HB 908 is that community solar energy generating systems must provide at least 40% of their kilowatt-hour output to low-income and moderate-income subscribers under certain circumstances. This ensures that the benefits of solar energy reach those who might have yet to have the opportunity to access it due to financial constraints or the availability of suitable rooftop space for solar panels.

Additionally, the bill allows subscription coordinators to act on behalf of subscribers, making it easier for residents to participate in community solar projects. This provision simplifies the process of joining a solar project, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive clean energy landscape in Maryland.

The passage of this legislation not only supports the growth of the solar industry in the state but also addresses the issue of energy equity. By requiring a significant portion of community solar projects to serve low-income and moderate-income households, HB 908 encourages a more equitable distribution of clean energy resources.

Local Government and Solar Limits in Maryland

The state government plays a significant role in developing and regulating solar energy in Maryland. However, local governments also have a say in implementing solar systems within their jurisdictions. This section discusses local government involvement and the limits they can impose on solar systems.

Maryland Public Service Commission Facebook Page

Municipalities in Maryland can set rules and regulations for installing solar systems within their geographic boundaries. They often develop specific zoning and permitting processes that must align with state and federal guidelines. For example, utility-scale solar facilities must obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) before project development.

Simultaneously, the state encourages renewable energy growth, aiming for a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) target of 50% renewable energy by 2030. As part of this goal, Maryland promotes solar energy expansion with initiatives like the Clean and Renewable Energy Standard (CARES), which pushes for 100% clean electricity by 2040 with zero carbon emissions.

Local governments can influence the environmental impact of solar development by adhering to the state’s Solar Facility Siting Guidance. This guidance aims to minimize the conversion of sensitive lands, like agricultural areas, into solar facilities. The state recommends using brownfields, parking lots, building rooftops, and other environmentally responsible locations for solar installations.

Community solar projects are another way local governments can influence solar expansion within their jurisdictions. The Maryland Public Service Commission has finalized community solar regulations that allow residents to participate in solar energy generation even when they cannot install solar systems on their property—making solar power more accessible and democratically distributed.