Written by Rick Peters

SES Letter to The Capital

Your recent editorial (The Capital, April 18) suggested Gov. O’Malley should put more emphasis on the distributed approach to renewable energy, where solar and wind power are generated by smaller systems throughout the state. In fact, the governor intends to sign legislation next month to do just that. Delegate Sally Jameson and state Senator Robert Garagiola sponsored what is essentially budget-neutral legislation (HB/933/SB717) to open up the state’s solar goals to include solar water heating, a very mature and efficient technology, first patented in Baltimore in 1891.

This family friendly technology currently saves a typical family of four about $500 per year on electric bills by obtaining 75 percent of their annual water heating energy from solar. The new law will allow system owners to sell green credits to help utilities comply with the state’s solar goals. Consequently, homeowners will now see simple paybacks on these affordable systems shortened from five to eight years to a very manageable two to four years, on a 25-year lifespan.

Aside from advancing our solar goals, and allowing modest-income homeowners to participate in the benefits of solar, there are significant economic benefits too. Solar water heating is a labor intensive installation, which keeps dollars recirculating in the community. It requires trades people to install it, a group much in need of work.

The components are low tech, but heavy and bulky , so there is strong incentives to manufacture domestically, if not locally. A typical residential system only requires 40 to 80 square feet of sunny roof, drastically increasing the potential pool of participants.

As a daily consumer of solar-heated water himself, O’Malley is well aware of the opportunity for Maryland. I commend him and our legislators for their leadership on this issue.