So­lar en­ergy users on the rise in South­ern Mary­land

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Why does so­lar con­tinue to en­joy tremen­dous growth in our tri-county SMECO foot­print, grow­ing 2,000 sys­tems in 2016 and now ex­ceed­ing 4,000 sub­stan­tial in­stal­la­tions, dou­bling an­nu­ally since 2009? There are ap­prox­i­mately 750 more sys­tems now in var­i­ous stages of per­mit­ting and in­stal­la­tion.

Is it pos­si­ble the fi­nan­cial ad­van­tages are slowly be­ing rec­og­nized by a dis­cern­ing public or is this just a good sell job? Are those pro­ceed­ing with in­stal­la­tions a lit­tle more op­ti­mistic than oth­ers, trust­ing in a 10- to 20-year out­look? Are the many in­stal­la­tion con­cerns not re­ally hap­pen­ing, such as roof leaks, wind dam­age or struc­tural is­sues? Has there been an ex­pose by the news me­dia re­gard­ing ex­ag­ger­ated claims by in­stall­ers and un­pro­duc­tive sys­tems? Seems like any such is­sues would have come to light by now, since this sub­stan­tial and mostly pri­vate ini­tia­tive started in earnest. With so many sys­tems now around, if cu­ri­ous about the many ben­e­fits or con­cerned about pos­si­ble is­sues, you should be able to sim­ply ask a neigh­bor, friend or fel­low worker.

I am proud to en­cour­age this ini­tia­tive and to pro­vide free fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal ad­vice, es­pe­cially since 2009. So­lar has given sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cial gains to those who pur­chase and, to a lesser level, to those who lease. Our air is a lit­tle cleaner and our kids are a lit­tle health­ier. Those of us who over­pro­duce our an­nual needs can sell our gains at whole­sale rates back to SMECO which, in turn, can dis­trib­ute to our co­op­er­a­tive neigh­bors at nor­mal prices, also avoid­ing the usual and waste­ful 8 per­cent trans­mis­sion losses. There are many other ben­e­fits I have de­scribed in pre­vi­ous let­ters. One fi­nan­cial down­side is the Mary­land-based Re­new­able En­ergy Cred­its in­cen­tive has dropped dra­mat­i­cally, par­tially be­cause we are on track to meet our pro­duc­tion goals.

One of the stated Mary­land goals was to gen­er­ate 2 per­cent of our elec­tri­cal grid re­quire­ments by 2020. Thanks to in­di­vid­ual and SMECO ini­tia­tives, we al­ready ex­ceed that goal in the SMECO foot­print. This growth has been so suc­cess­ful, I would be truly sur­prised if we are able to dou­ble again in 2017. How­ever, growth will likely con­tinue to be sub­stan­tial as the 30 per­cent tax credit will stay in ef­fect a few more years, as will ac­cel­er­ated de­pre­ci­a­tion for com­mer­cial. Maybe the econ­omy will con­tinue to im­prove so more can take ad­van­tage. Maybe more com­mer­cial en­ter­prises will take ad­van­tage of the ac­cel­er­ated de­pre­ci­a­tion which is worth another 30 per­cent to some. Maybe our many paved park­ing lots will be utilized more. Maybe per­mit­ting re­quire­ments and fees will be scaled back to ear­lier lev­els to make projects more fea­si­ble and costs more rea­son­able. Maybe our banks will be­come more flex­i­ble and eco­nom­i­cal when lend­ing for so­lar. Maybe the real es­tate agen­cies and home­buy­ers will come to bet­ter rec­og­nize the as­set value of so­lar. Maybe ar­chi­tects and builders will take pains to in­stall clean, south-fac­ing roof struc­tures. Maybe the gen­eral public will ac­cept so­lar pan­els as beau­ti­ful signs of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion.

I con­tinue to read news ar­ti­cles con­cern­ing the data on global warm­ing and cli­mate change. While we can­not wish it away and while we con­tinue our ad­dic­tion to fos­sil fu­els, maybe a larger per­cent­age of the public will do in­di­vid­ual parts. As a friend re­cently told me, he would like to in­vest in so­lar but he has other pri­or­i­ties. I would es­pe­cially like to en­cour­age churches to par­tic­i­pate more. While they get no tax ben­e­fits and pay­back is at the 5 per­cent to 7 per­cent level, they gen­er­ally have a con­cerned mem­ber­ship, invit­ing rooflines and paved park­ing lots or ex­pan­sive land­scapes to ac­com­mo­date frames. I only know of St. John Vian­ney Church in Prince Fred­er­ick that has ac­tu­ally pro­ceeded with so­lar.

So I ap­pre­ci­ate all those who are able to par­tic­i­pate in this ini­tia­tive, and I in­vite oth­ers to join. In­stal­la­tions are gen­er­ally cheaper than a new pickup, and you get most of your in­vest­ment back in a few years to boot. Mike Thomp­son, Hol­ly­wood

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