Potomac Edison cannot, under current Maryland law, connect the city of Frederick’s proposed 2.4-megawatt solar installation to the electrical grid, a determination that has ended the project.

“It was denied because it doesn’t meet the requirements of the existing solar tariff,” said Todd Meyers, spokesman for Potomac Edison. Tariffs are the rates, charges, rules and regulations of a utility.

The planned 10-acre solar array would have supplied renewable energy to Frederick County’s power grid and applied the energy credit to electric meters on several city government buildings, a system called “virtual net metering.” The project was expected to save the city of Frederick $3 million over 25 years.

Under current law, however, the city of Frederick would need a building that used a substantial amount of the energy produced by the array on the property or contiguous to the property to set up an account and qualify for virtual net metering, Meyers said. The Islamic Waqf of Maryland Inc., an organization that owns and operates mosques, was going to lease the empty land to the city, and only a small building with a meter was planned for the property.

The small building would not be in the “spirit” of the law, Meyers said.

Potomac Edison previously agreed to connect the solar project to its power lines and allow the government to virtually net meter the electricity, said city Sustainability Manager Jenny Willoughby. After finding out more details about the building, Potomac Edison decided it did not meet the requirements of the law, Meyers said.

“It’s their lines,” Willoughby said. “They have the say over it.”

The city of Frederick may still be able to virtually net meter through an emerging community solar program.

Maryland’s four investor-owned utilities — Potomac Edison, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Potomac Electric Power Company and Delmarva Power — are developing tariffs for community solar. The tariffs have not yet been filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission, according to an email from Tori Leonard, the commission’s communications director.

The commission will review the utilities’ proposed tariffs at an administrative meeting Jan. 11, Leonard wrote.

The commission already approved regulations for a three-year pilot community solar program, according to a June 15 press release. The program has a statewide cap of over 200 megawatts. One megawatt can power about 1,000 homes, Meyers said.

The city of Frederick is still interested in a solar project to meet the energy goals set in its 2014 Renewable Energy Policy, Willoughby said. It must generate or purchase 20 percent of its electricity by 2022 from a renewable source.

“It wasn’t us,” Willoughby said. “We wanted to do it.”

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(12) comments

Fawned

This article is confusing me. Could Potomac Edison have approved it regardless or were they required to block it based on the current law? What can we do to update or revise the law so that we can approve the connection? Is there anyone at the PSC or Potomac Edison we can appeal to, to let them know it's what we want in Frederick? Does Potomac Edison have an incentive to block it, does the connection mean they as a company will make less profit? The FNP should investigate this more and help inform the community of what we can do from here on out, this article is kind of vague.

joelp77440

Yes, they could of and have on several occasions in the past in other counties. In short, what you are seeing here, is the inevitable push back of utilities against renewable sources not owned and operated by them. Businesses are based on profit and solar can reduce their profit margins. It's their wires and they have a right to say who can jump on and off. In the past, many utilities were regulated (Potamac Edision is to some point) but not with deregulations, the companies can do whatever they want.

Fawned

Thanks for the response Joel, that's what it sounded like to me but didn't want to assume. Do you know in which counties they approved it? I wanted to dig into this more and see what we can do. I would hope they would work with solar and incorporate it into their business so they can also profit from solar, since that seems to be the sole motivation!

DickD

Actually, the grid company is regulated, the generator companies are not, which is why you can purchase power from whatever company you want. It is also why the grid companies have a statewide obligation to allow a certain amount of net metering. Of course, there are conflicts of interest, as companies like First Energy generate electricity and own grid companies. So, your grid company may be Potomac Edison and you purchase your electricity from First Energy, one regulated and one unregulated. This is First Energy's web site:
http://search.aol.com/aol/search?enabled_terms=&s_it=client97_searchbox-ac&q=potomac+edison+electric

DickD

Under current law Potomac Edison cannot connect them. "Potomac Edison cannot, under current Maryland law, connect the city of Frederick’s proposed 2.4-megawatt solar installation to the electrical grid, a determination that has ended the project."

https://www.firstenergycorp.com/content/fecorp/feconnect/potomacedison/retail-md.html "To be eligible for net metering, the nameplate generation capacity limit is 2,000 kW."
What I don't understand is why the City could not just build a solar array and purchase power from it, the same as what you can do from any power generating company. If you own the generating company there would be no cost for the power, but Potomac Edison would still provide billing and charge you distribution fees.

FNPreader30

It's all about money, of course. [thumbdown]

DickD

Net metering never made sense to me. The grid company must buy all excess solar power not used by the solar cell owner and the costs of the grid company are only covered by the distribution charge. For the individual home owner that is only $5/mo. while actual costs must be much higher. Some western states have already made this charge much higher. The state wide mandate for the power companies is only 20% of renewable energy must be allowed. After that they can and will deny all connections. In Hawaii they already reached the 20% saturation point and have been refusing new connections for many. (Hawaii has a very high kilowatt hour price, about $.35/ kWh, compared to about $,07 here locally)

To make up for the short fall of revenue from net metering existing customers will be charged more. This is not fair to them and it might lead to more going to solar.

The power grid companies will be hard pressed if fuel cells are used as off grid power generators for the solar users. Just take the excess power from the solar cells and use it to make hydrogen and then use the hydrogen to power the fuel cell generator. Technically it can be done, cost and production of the fuel cell generators will be the determining factors.

Building solar arrays, where the power is not being used is another story.

MAVRICKinc7

Haven't you just described, in some detail, what a MONOPOLY is?

DickD

They are monopolies, Mav, you only have one grid company serving you.

kzat82

"it might lead to more going to solar"

and that's a problem because?

DickD

Because the more that go to solar, the higher the price is to everyone else. It is higher because the current price structure for grid companies is not properly placed. The distribution costs pays for the maintenance of the grid, $5/mo. is not realistic. As solar customers only pay for the $5/mo. distribution fee and any net metering costs, the costs are not properly allocated.

shiftless88

Get with the program, Potomac Edison!

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