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Solar farm coming to Baltimore in WeSolar, UMMS deal

WeSolar Inc. and the University of Maryland Medical System announced Thursday, in advance of Earth Day on Friday, a partnership to develop a solar farm in Baltimore that will provide power to UMMS facilities as well as for city residents.

Most underserved consumers across the U.S. pay significantly more for energy than do middle-to-upper-class households. For reasons like these, WeSolar is focused on community solar, which is typically more accessible than the standard rooftop solar.

Rather than purchasing panels for rooftop installation, community solar customers have the option to purchase or lease panels that reside on a nearby farm. The panels then transmit energy back into the grid, which powers individual homes. Customers who take advantage of the service receive a credit each billing cycle.

As a development partner, UMMS will pay a foundational commitment of $10,000 per month for up to 18 months to help with construction of the solar farm at a location to be determined in Baltimore. The proposed farm is projected to generate eight megawatts of energy, of which UMMS has committed to purchasing up to 50%.

Once the farm is constructed, UMMS team members who earn less than $67,000 will also be able to acquire solar energy at their residences from the Baltimore Gas & Electric grid at a discount of up to 25%.

The U.S. Department of Energy has set a nationwide target of growing the community solar industry by 700% nationwide by 2025.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 3% of the nation’s power comes from solar, which is expected to reach 14% by 2035.

Maryland ranks 17th among U.S. states in solar power, generating 4.43% of the state’s electricity from solar power, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Solar energy provided almost two-fifths of the state’s renewable electricity generation in 2020 and Maryland had 1,250 megawatts of total solar generating capacity installed as of 2021, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.

According to the Maryland Energy Administration, Maryland has quadrupled its solar energy capacity since 2015.

The state employs nearly 5,000 individuals in solar-related jobs and has nearly 78,000 solar installations.

This is the second solar energy-related project that UMMS has embarked on. In 2013, UMMS announced an agreement with Bithenergy and Constellation to purchase electricity produced by a 25-acre solar power farm in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore. Today, this farm produces about 2% of the electricity used by UMMS.