Solar in Maryland: An Overview

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Maryland’s solar industry, including both commercial and residential applications,  is a booming economy with over 4000 jobs and an estimated $1.5 billion in economic activity.  Solar Energy Services, Inc. is just one of 183 solar companies currently working in the State.    Maryland has well over 500 mW of solar installed statewide ranking us 11th in the country for solar installations.  According to SEIA, Maryland’s solar capacity is slated to grow by five times with an expected install of 1,792 MW of solar electric capacity over the next five years.

There are a number of reasons for this growth:

  1. In 2008, Maryland enacted the Renewable Portfolio Standard which enabled us to adopt and establish the Solar Renewable Energy Credit.  This market-based incentive requires that electricity suppliers in Maryland must procure a specific and annually increasing percentage of solar electricity as their sales.  SRECs, along with other financial incentives, made solar an attractive proposition for both homeowners and businesses.  In 2012, Governor O’Malley signed into law the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard for Solar Photovoltaic (electric) and Solar Water Heating Systems bill (Senate Bill 791 and House Bill 1187), which accelerated the target date for achieving the state's two percent solar carve-out by two years and ensured the industry maintains positive, year-over-year job growth.

 

  1. Along with the aforementioned SREC adoption as well as the nationally available Federal Tax Credit – Marylanders also have access to a small, but notable grant from the Maryland Energy Administration, as well as some County-Specific property tax credits.  The state grant requires that the installation contractor have NABCEP certified personnel.

 

  1. In addition to the Federal Tax Credit, SRECs and Maryland State Grant, the following Maryland counties offer property tax credits.  These are generally credited against a homeowner’s tax bill.

 

  • Anne Arundel County:  One-time property tax credit provided in June when tax levies become due.  Up to $2500.
  • Prince George’s County:  One-time property tax credit of up to $5000.  There is currently a wait list for this as it is based upon an annual budget.
  • Harford County:  One-time property tax credit of $2500
  • Baltimore County:  One-time property tax credit of up to $5000.  There is currently a wait list for this.

 

  1.  Installed solar PV system prices in Maryland, as well as the U.S. at large, have dropped steadily by close to 70% since 2010.

    Cole Field House PV 3 (Small) copy.jpg

 

Solar Jurisdictions and Permitting

Contractors installing solar on a business or home in Maryland are usually required to procure some level of building and/or trade permit through the local County jurisdiction that ensures materials, weight loads, roof substructure and electrical circuitry meet state and county codes.  Furthermore, some Maryland counties require that solar panels have certain setbacks and/or walkways for fire fighter accessibility.  These solar PV requirements are often exempt on solar water heating systems.

Following are some examples of solar requirements throughout Maryland (disclaimer: these requirements are subject to change at any point in time):

Anne Arundel, Montgomery County, Howard County, Charles County, Calvert County, Kent County, Talbot County

  No solar panel setbacks for residential rooftop installations.  Structurally engineered plans detailing weight loads on roof, as well as electrical one-line schematics are submitted for the required building and electrical permits, (plumbing permit required for solar water heating systems).  Building permits must be procured by contractors licensed with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission.  Electrical permits must be signed off on by a State and sometimes county-licensed Master Electrician.

 Ground-mounted systems with septic and well provisions are subject to property line setback requirements as well as Health Department review.   

Commercial applications are subject to solar panel setbacks in Anne Arundel County; usually a 3 or 4’ setback from perimeter of building as well as walkways throughout the solar panel array.

Baltimore County, Harford County:  Baltimore and Harford Counties have some of Maryland’s most stringent setback requirements for both residential and commercial solar systems.  Solar panels must be setback 3’ from roof edges on both residential and commercial.  In Baltimore County, an electrical permit, procured by a licensed Master electrician is required for all installations; as well as details of NABCEP certification for the solar contractor.  However, a residential solar installation under 10kW does not need a building permit.  Harford County permitting does require both a building and electrical permit.

Ground-mounted systems are subject to septic and well review via Health Department, as well as zoning review for property line setbacks.  In addition, a minimum 48” privacy fence must be installed around any Baltimore County ground-mounted solar system.

Prince George’s County:   No solar panel setbacks for residential rooftop installations.  Structurally engineered plans detailing weight loads on roof, as well as electrical one-line schematics are submitted for the required building and electrical permits, (plumbing permit required for solar water heating systems).  Structural plans must be stamped by a licensed professional engineer (P.E.). Building permits must be procured by contractors licensed with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission.  Electrical permits must be signed off on by a State and County-licensed Master Electrician.

 Ground-mounted systems with septic and well provisions are subject to property line setback requirements as well as Health Department review.  

Commercial applications are subject to solar panel setbacks in Anne Arundel County; usually a 3 or 4’ setback from perimeter of building as well as walkways throughout the solar panel array.

Inspections are performed by third-party inspection agencies.

Maryland permitting jurisdictions that have adopted the 2014 NEC code require an inverter with Rapid Shutdown capability.  This provides emergency responders the ability to de-energize a solar PV system rapidly, allowing them safe access to the roof and building with respect to potential electrical hazards from the PV system..

 

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