O’Malley backs Md.’s solar-power water heating market
The legislation would boost a type of renewable energy generation that hasn’t received the same cachet as photovoltaic solar panels but can be significantly cheaper. Solar panels have long been supported by the solar credits, which help add extra pay-back to the technology aside from reduced utility bills. Now the same benefit will be afforded to owners of solar water heating systems, and it could spark new jobs for solar companies.
“It’s fantastic, ” Dimitris Spiliadis, co-owner of the Black Olive Restaurant and the soon-to-open Inn at the Black Olive hotel, said of the legislation.
Spiliadis recently completed construction of a solar water heating system on the roof the Fells Point hotel, and he said the technology’s efficiency and energy savings rivals that of solar panels. “Recognizing that in Maryland would be something that would put Maryland on the forefront of renewable energy promotion, ” Spiliadis said.
While the details of the legislation haven’t been revealed, the idea behind solar credits is that the owner of a solar system accuries one credit for each megawatt hour of solar power generated. The credits can be sold in a marketplace to utilities or other energy companies that are looking to buy credits if they haven’t generated enough solar power on their own. Prices vary but can reach $300 a piece.
Solar hot water heaters do not use solar panel technology; instead, a system of tubes through a copper plate heat water. There is also an electric-powered backup system for use as needed at night and during winter.
O’Malley said Jan. 12 a bill making solar water heating systems eligible for generating solar renewable energy credits would be part of his legislative agenda. His spokesman Shaun Adamec would not provide any further details but said the bill would likely be unveiled Jan. 24.
A smiliar bill nearly became law in 2010 but fell short in the House of Delegates despite a fervent lobbying effort from members of the industry such as Mike Healy, owner of Skyline Innovations in Washington, D.C., and Rick Peters, president of Solar Energy Services in Millersville. The governor’s backing and the extra time lawmakers have had to study the issue boost the bill’s chances in 2011.
That could mean Maryland will soon a similar flurry of jobs that companies like Skyline have seen in Washington, D.C., where solar water heating projects are already eligible for the credits. The added cash flow from sale of the credits provides an extra incentive and also makes it easier to finance the projects.
Healy said his company has done about 10 jobs in Washington since November 2009 and has another 1- under contract, compared to one completed job in Maryland. A typical job has a crew of four to six and costs anywhere from $8000 to $10,000 for a residential system to 10 times as much for a large apartment building or hotel, Peters said.
Adding the ability to sell credits could expand that audience of customers. For the typical home a solar panel system can cost three to four times more than a solar water heating system.
“We expect it will allow many more folks to participate in renewable energy further down on the income spectrum, ” Peters said.