Equity and inclusion for solar energy in Western Maryland – Cumberland Times-News

Everything you thought you knew about solar energy is about to change. Solar has often been promoted as an environmental, or green product because it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants. However, with the introduction of community solar in our state, Western Maryland is going to see a new kind of solar, one that helps with your family budget, especially if you are not in one of the top income brackets.

These community solar projects bring economic benefits to families and to the communities where they are located.

Maryland is one of more than a dozen states in the country that have adopted rules to allow for community shared solar. It opens solar power to the 80% of the market that is unable to get rooftop solar. That’s right — this isn’t solar you put on your roof. Instead, you subscribe to a share of a large, commercial-scale project in your utility area. Each month, as the project produces power, you get assigned your share on your utility bill and your bill goes down just like it would if you had a rooftop system. It has the added benefit of saving you money.

Community solar projects in Maryland offer guaranteed savings to their customers. Two projects in Western Maryland, Flintstone and Shepherds Mill, offer a 10% savings for market rate customers. For moderate or lower income customers, the projects offer a 20 to 30% discount. That’s a lot of savings. It’s the equivalent of not paying an electric bill for two months or more. And a surprisingly high number of people in Western Maryland qualify as moderate income, thus getting that extra discount.

These projects are able to offer this extra financial incentive to moderate and lower income residents because of support from the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA), which provides a grant. This is a clear vote of support for more inclusive solar energy from the state. Two local Maryland companies, Neighborhood Sun (which I run) and Standard Solar, are behind the projects in Flintstone and Shepherds Mill. Having our two companies involved keeps the projects truly local, and means customers are not subject to the whims of out-of-state companies.

For too long, the solar industry was very insular and only focused on the upper income population or large corporations. With community solar, we now have the chance to build a more inclusive business, a business that takes concerns of equity and fairness seriously.

It’s a chance to right some historical wrongs, help families save money, and build a better community. And of course, it’s green.

Gary Skulnik

CEO/founder

Neighborhood Sun

Benefit Corp. 

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Source: https://www.times-news.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/equity-and-inclusion-for-solar-energy-in-western-maryland/article_f7a76523-8461-53a8-972a-15d24acc4d3b.html

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