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In an era where the call for sustainable living grows louder each day, Montgomery County, Maryland, exemplifies progress and innovation in adopting solar energy.

In addition to a generous 30% federal tax credit on solar panel installations, property owners can also take advantage of incentives offered by the state for a solar system.

The commitment to sustainable living was showcased during a gathering at the headquarters of Montgomery County Green Bank in Rockville, Maryland, where industry leaders, government officials, and residents discussed the future of solar energy, highlighting Montgomery County’s ambitious environmental goals and the role of residential solar panels in achieving these targets.

Montgomery County’s Vision for a Greener Future

Evan Glass, an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council, opened the conversation, emphasizing the county’s dedication to sustainability. “Our first goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2027 and eliminate carbon emissions by 2030,” he declared.

He also celebrated the approval of the county’s new budget.

“The Green Bank has a record investment of approximately $19 million, which is huge. And the reason they have that much in funding is good, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Cindy McCabe, Montgomery County Green Banks’s Director of Renewable Energy, explained the bank’s role in this transition, stating that they “help all types of property owners to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades.”

The Power of Solar

The solar revolution is transforming how we power our homes and our businesses. Solar panels are no longer a futuristic novelty but a cornerstone in the shift towards renewable energy. They play a significant role in reducing our carbon footprints and enhancing energy security while contributing to economic savings for homeowners and businesses.

Global solar energy capacity surpassed 700 gigawatts (GW) as of April 2023, with residential solar a key contributor to this growth. A significant driver of this adoption is the cost reduction of solar panels making solar a more accessible and attractive option for homeowners and businesses.

Beyond cost savings, solar offers significant environmental benefits. A typical residential system can offset three to four tons of carbon emissions annually, contributing to cleaner air and a healthier planet. Commercial solar systems can offset much, much more than that. Solar energy production also requires less water than traditional energy sources, making it a valuable tool for water conservation in drought-prone regions.

Economic Advantages

The economic advantages of solar are undeniable. Average systems can save property owners thousands of dollars on their electricity bills over the panels’ lifetime.  Additionally, buildings equipped with solar systems often sell for a premium, fetching much higher resale values than similar buildings without solar. Additionally, homes with solar panels tend to sell quickly and for a higher price than similar non-solar dwellings.

With the average electric bill in Montgomery County coming in at just over $200 per month, a 10kW solar system should fully recover its cost in about eight years, as it generates approximately 40kWh per day on average – that works out to be 14,600 kilowatt-hours a year. After that, everything produced by the system is a net gain.

Similar to residential solar, commercial solar offers a compelling return on investment for businesses in Montgomery County. Commercial solar systems significantly decrease electricity bills, leading to substantial cost savings over the system’s lifespan, which can be upwards of 25 years.

Also, due to higher energy consumption compared to residential properties, commercial installations often boast shorter payback periods, typically ranging from five to ten years.

Businesses can benefit from the same federal tax credit available for residential installations, along with state incentives, as programs remain available.  Locally, businesses can take advantage of solar programs that require no money down, like the Commercial Solar Power Purchase Agreement (CSPPA) offered by the Montgomery County Green Bank.

Challenges

While the benefits of solar power are undeniable, property owners face several challenges when making the switch. The upfront cost of purchasing and installing panels can be significant, and financing options may require good credit. Roof suitability is also a concern, as panels require good sunlight and structurally sound roofing.

Additionally, some homeowners associations (HOAs) may have restrictions on installing solar panels due to aesthetic concerns.

Navigating the permitting process and interconnection with the utility company can also add complexity to the project. However, the support of Montgomery County Green Bank and other entities can overcome most of these challenges.

Voices on the Ground

Maris Burns from Ipsun Solar shared practical insights on navigating some homeowners associations’ (HOAs) restrictions, advising homeowners to review HOA bylaws and to contact an installer to evaluate their roofs.

She reflected on the broader implications of individual installations, indicating that the global shift to renewable energy is achievable.

Meanwhile, Brian Haaser from Glen Manor Condominium detailed the condominium’s journey toward solar energy, emphasizing the collective effort and perseverance required. “It was trial and error… but we’re very close,” he remarked.

Rockville Mayor Monique Ashton has been a vocal advocate for sustainable energy and has led several initiatives to promote solar energy within the city. Her efforts emphasize the environmental benefits of solar power and the need for systemic changes to support sustainable development.

Ashton explained the city’s multifaceted approach: “We’re also trying to look at equity and how we change systems to help support goals.”

Ashton also highlighted some specific actions Rockville has taken under her leadership, including streamlining the permitting process for solar installations, reducing barriers for homeowners and businesses alike, and working to amend HOA regulations that might hinder the adoption of solar technology.

She also emphasized the role of community engagement in this transition: “Sustainability is a collective endeavor. It’s about communities coming together, sharing knowledge, and working towards common goals.”

Mayor Ashton concluded her remarks with a call to action, urging other municipalities to follow Rockville’s lead and embrace renewable energy sources like solar power.

The insights shared by the panelists underscore the approach required to realize Montgomery County’s green ambitions – from policy and investment to grassroots activism and community engagement.

If you live in Montgomery County and have questions about switching to solar, contact us! We are happy to provide you with all the guidance you need on your journey to solar energy.