Community Solar: How one of the first projects came to life!

By Zach Schalk on June 15, 2018
John Mariani, an architect and a Baltimore native, stands next to his rooftop solar installation. In May 2018 it became the first community solar project to come online in Maryland.

In a previous post, we explained what community solar is and some challenges that it faces in Maryland right now. Now we want to share some good news about community solar in our state!

Community solar is just starting to scratch the surface of its potential in Maryland, and, with the help of Solar United Neighbors, a small rooftop project in the heart of Baltimore City just became the state’s first community solar project to come online!

What is community solar?

Community solar makes the benefits of solar—lower electricity bills, improved community health, and economic development, to name a few—available to those unable to go solar today. Whether their roof is shaded, or if they live in an apartment or condo and don’t own their own roof, Maryland’s community solar pilot program allows Marylanders to subscribe to a community solar project and experience the energy freedom enjoyed by solar homeowners.

Community solar projects will only be built where property owners want them. No property owner in our state can be forced to install a community solar array on their property—no matter what!

Projects can be sized and built to meet demand given the constraints of their location. Rooftops, parking lost structures, and farm land are all ideal for community solar.

How John Mariani turned on Maryland’s first community solar project

In the fall of 2016, former Solar United Neighbors of Maryland Program Director Corey Ramsden and Delegate Luke Clippinger hosted an information session about community solar. John Mariani, an architect and a Baltimore native, happened to be in the crowd and was inspired. In November of that same year, John reached out to Corey with a great idea to take advantage of the pilot program by developing a community solar project on the roof of his rental property in Baltimore City. “I only heard about this opportunity because of Corey and Solar United Neighbors,” John said.

Unfortunately, after the idea came the paperwork. In April 2017, Solar United Neighbors and Delegate Clippinger helped John fill out the application required to develop community solar with the Public Service Commission (PSC). By June, the application was approved, and the project began to move forward.

“As the lead sponsor of community solar in Maryland, I’m excited to see the first community solar project come on line in my district,” said Del. Clippinger. “Community solar will expand access to generating solar energy and lower electricity costs for thousands of Marylanders. I will continue to advocate and support this important program in Annapolis.”

The system that John decided to develop with Solar Energy World is small—at 9 kW, it is only a little larger than an average residential system. It was designed to maximize the potential capacity on the roof space available at John’s rental property and helps to offset the energy costs for the rental property where it’s located, John’s house (on the same block), and the home of John’s sister—which is over 30 minutes away, but in the same utility area.

The system was turned on in March 2018 and the subscribers to his system saw their first credits on their bill in May.

“We are proud to be part of one of the newest solar programs available in Maryland,” said   Geoff Mirkin, CEO of Solar Energy World, the company John selected to install the system. “It is always exciting to find more ways where folks can benefit financially and environmentally from solar!”

This is a system that is doing exactly what community solar is meant to do—helping homes that can’t have solar on their own roof still enjoy the benefits of solar energy. This project, the first community solar project in the state of Maryland, is the true definition of community solar.