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.”