In April 2023, the Maryland state legislature passed House Bill (HB) 908, creating the Community Solar Energy Generating Systems Program and making permanent a successful seven-year community solar pilot program. The law, which took effect on July 1, 2023, allows for unlimited community solar capacity (though each project’s capacity is limited to no more than 5 megawatts) and requires that 40% of a project’s output serves low- to moderate-income subscribers. Municipal and cooperative utilities can participate in the program, though as of 2023, only investor-owned utilities do.
See Maryland’s program progress in our National Community Solar Programs Tracker.
The pilot program, which began in 2015 and was extended in 2019, brought enough solar capacity to support some 90,000 Maryland consumers. Applications to operate a project as a subscriber organization were open to many groups including solar developers, non-profits, homeowners associations, commercial businesses, utilities, and retail electricity suppliers, and were overseen by the Maryland Public Service Commission. Capacity limits were allocated based on 2015 peak demand and were divided between four utility service territories (BGE, Pepco, Delmarva Power, and Potomac Edison).
Improvements to the Pilot Program
In passing House Bill (HB) 908, Maryland legislators enacted a permanent community solar program which improves on the seven-year pilot program in the following key ways:
- Capacity: While the pilot program capped statewide capacity at about 418 megawatts, the new bill allows for unlimited capacity. As of 2022, Maryland had at least 88 megawatts of community solar capacity in operation.
- Contiguous Development: HB 908 clarifies limitations on community solar projects built on adjacent parcels of land, allowing for contiguous development of more than 5 megawatts in difficult to build areas including industrial zones and parking lots. Farmland is also open for contiguous development, allowing for scaled agrivoltaic projects.
- Equity: About 125 megawatts of the pilot program were set aside for LMI (low- to moderate-income) households. HB 908 updates this provision, requiring that 40% of a project’s output serves LMI subscribers. In addition, the 2023 bill introduced consolidated billing and allows for LMI eligibility based on self-attestation, measures which reduce barriers to entry and increase ease of participation.
Pushback at the County Level
Expanding solar capacity has caused friction in the state as counties engage in a power-struggle with the Public Service Commission over decision-making on large-scale solar projects, land use, and zoning, especially in regards to solar projects built on farmland. In July, 2023, for example, Carroll County issued a ban on community solar projects built on land zoned for agriculture in hopes of preserving the county’s identity as an agricultural community.
Despite this pushback, Maryland’s fully fledged community solar program is an encouraging sign for community solar growth in the state and capacity is predicted to increase.
For more on solar in Maryland, check out these resources:
- In Maryland, Community Solar Pioneers Offer Blueprint (2016)
- Maryland Scores 3 out of 4 on Principles for a Good Community Solar Program (2016)
- Find a community solar project near you with a tool by Solar United Neighbors.
Learn more about community solar in one of these ILSR reports:
|Designing Community Solar Programs that Promote Racial and Economic Equity|
|Minnesota’s Solar Gardens: the Status and Benefits of Community Solar|
|Beyond Sharing — How Communities Can Take Ownership of Renewable Power|
For podcasts, videos, and more, see ILSR’s community renewable energy archive.
Featured photo credit: Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr (with permission from owner).