Baltimore among region’s solar leaders

Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center

Baltimore, MD—Baltimore has been steadily growing in solar rankings over the course of the last few years. This year, ranking 34th for total solar panels in the nation, and 6th in the South Atlantic Region according to a new analysis. Baltimore could improve its ranking by adopting a bold goal for solar power installations, and by pushing through sensible solar legislation advocates said today.

“Cities can be big stars in our transition to clean energy,” said Talya Tavor, Interim Director with Environment Maryland. “If Baltimore continues to focus on our solar successes, we can be one of the best cities in the country when it comes to solar energy.”

Continuing that thought, Robert Wallace, President of BITHENERGY Inc. said today “one of the reasons we moved our corporate headquarters to Baltimore City, was our belief that the City of Baltimore provided significant economic opportunities that were linked to the emerging renewable energy economy. I believe that the solar energy economy alone has the potential to dramatically transform the economic landscape of the city. Baltimore’s ranking within the Top 50 solar energy cities in confirmation to me that my assumptions were on point.”

New York City and Newark topped the list for most solar power installations in the South-Atlantic region in the Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center analysis, Shining Cities: Harnessing the Benefits of Solar Energy in America.

Solar power is on the rise across the country, with another panel or project installed every three minutes last year. Plummeting costs, increasing public concern over global warming and energy independence, and technological innovation have all played a role in spurring the growth of the pollution-free energy source.

Cities are wielding many different policies as tools to expand solar energy development. The city of Denver, for instance, has cut cost and time required to acquire solar energy permits. New York City has partnered with its local investor-owned utility to create designated “Solar Empowerment Zones” where solar can be most beneficial. And cities nationwide are encouraging local lending for solar projects and facilitating community-owned solar.

But here in Baltimore, partnerships have been key towards our success and future opportunities. “With support from the Abell Foundation and in partnership with the City Office of Sustainability and CivicWorks, GRID Alternatives looks forward to bringing solar jobs and training opportunities to low income residents in Baltimore starting in May,” said Nicole Steele, Mid-Atlantic Executive Director of GRID Alternatives.

The roles of local governments are especially critical in states like Maryland. “This report is proof that Baltimore is moving in the right direction by increasing investments in solar energy. We know that current research shows that pollution-free, solar energy has the potential to power America 100 times over. That’s huge and positive news for the future health of our planet,” said Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

However, solar is facing opposition at the state level.  With solar power on the rise, utility companies are campaigning intensely to increase fees for rooftop solar, which they see as a direct threat to their business model.

“With prices going down and concern about global warming going up, solar power is growing rapidly in our state,” said Tavor. “We need state leaders to continue the policies that allow solar to shine. Specifically, we need our state legislators to focus on passing policies like Community Solar and the Maryland Clean Energy Advancement Act, to increase our Renewable Portfolio Standard. With these policies we can see more Maryland cities topping this list.”