Community Solar Benefit

UMB is excited to be partnering with WeSolar to offer community solar benefits to UMB staff and faculty who receive electricity from BGE. This benefit is a guaranteed 10% discount on the base rate for the electricity portion of your BGE bill. You will receive credits on your electricity bill from a local community solar farm without ever having to put solar panels on your own roof. There are no fees to join - only savings! Learn more by reading our FAQs below.

To date, over 300 UMB staff, faculty, and postdocs have enrolled in the program.

solar panels at Checkerspot Farm in Anne Arundel County

Checkerspot Solar Farm in Tracy's Landing (Anne Arundel County, Maryland)

Info Sessions

We hosted several informational sessions in July and August to provide a deeper dive into the basics of community solar, what the benefit is for UMB employees, and answer any questions from prospective participants.

Miss an info session? To see a recorded info session, please visit this Zoom link. The access passcode is: umbsolar22!

Ready to Sign Up?

Click here to access the sign-up form.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is community solar?

The U.S. Department of Energy defines community solar as any solar project or purchasing program, within a geographic area, in which the benefits of a solar project flow to multiple customers such as individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups. Community solar can be a great option for people who are unable to install solar panels on their roofs because they don’t own their homes, have insufficient solar resources or roof conditions to support a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system due to shading, roof size, or other factors, or for financial/other reasons. Read more about community solar here.

How does community solar work?

A community solar farm is a farm of solar panels owned and operated by a solar developer. For the UMB employee benefit, this developer is CleanChoice Energy. The energy that is generated by this farm flows to the smart grid and becomes part of the overall energy supply. In our case, the solar energy becomes part of the energy delivered by BGE to homes and businesses in the area.

How is this different from switching your electric provider through BGE to a renewable energy provider through the Customer Choice program?

For community solar, the electricity generated at a big solar farm is fed directly into the local electricity grid. For third-party supplier contracts, the vendor purchases renewable energy certificates (RECs) on your behalf to re-define the electricity as “renewable.” RECs can come from various fuel sources, including trash incinerators and burning wood. Third-party supplier contracts through the Customer Choice program often utilize fluctuating rates, where a customer may get a better rate than the BGE base price initially, but the rate goes up over time throughout the term of the contract, ultimately making it a more expensive option than the BGE rate (also known as an escalator). Your community solar benefit will always be 10% off the current BGE rate for the length of the contract term; there are no escalators. Read more about the differences between these two programs here.

How has this program been vetted?

Community solar is a pilot program that is run by the State of Maryland and the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), the entity that regulates public utilities. Through this program, the PSC reviews and accepts applications for “subscriber organizations” such as CleanChoice and ensures the regulations that passed regarding community solar are followed. These regulations include consumer protections.

What exactly is the benefit?

The benefit is a guaranteed 10% discount on the base rate for the electricity portion of your BGE bill. Please note that if you receive both electricity and gas services through BGE, this benefit is only for the electricity portion. This benefit lasts for 20 years.

Additionally, if you signed up on or before August 15, 2022, you should have received a $50 Visa gift card from Utility Advisor. Please see below for an example of what the email notification with the gift card code looks like.

 

example of Utility Advisor $50 Visa gift card email notification

Who is eligible for this benefit?

Regular full- or part-time (50 percent FTE or more) faculty or staff employees and postdoctoral researchers of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) who live within the BGE service area are eligible.

This benefit is not available to the following parties:

  • Part-time employees with less than 50 percent FTE
  • Contractual employees
  • Employees who are not in good standing
  • University of Maryland Medical Center employees
  • UMB undergraduate and graduate students

This community solar benefit is available to both homeowners and renters. There is no minimum credit score requirement to participate.

Where is the solar farm located?

The five solar farms that UMB employees will be assigned shares of are:

  • In Anne Arundel County
    • Checkerspot - 5963 Franklin Gibson Rd, Tracys Landing, MD 20779
    • Patuxent - 4913 Sands Rd, Lothian, MD 20711
    • Bathian - 605 Bayard Rd, Lothian, MD 20711
  • In Baltimore County
    • Sassafras - 632 Freeland Rd, Freeland, MD 21053
    • Trillium - 1139 Monkton Rd, Monkton, MD 21111

Will anything change with my service?

A community solar subscription does not require a change in electricity suppliers. Your electricity will still be delivered to your residence by BGE. Solar credits are applied to your utility bill without any interruption of service.

How do I sign up?

  1. Fill out the form.
  2. Sign the DocuSign agreement with CleanChoice.
  3. Receive email confirmation from CleanChoice Energy regarding start date and other details via email within 24 business hours.

What information do you need from me as an employee in order to sign up?

You will need to provide your name, UMB email address, UMB employee ID number, and address where you receive BGE electricity service.

Will I still get a bill from BGE?

Yes, participants will receive two monthly bills – one from CleanChoice and one from BGE. The CleanChoice bill is based on the amount of energy your share of the solar farm produced that month. On your BGE bill, you will see these solar credits from CleanChoice applied, reducing your utility charges. See an example of what your bill will look like before and after enrolling below:

example of a CleanChoice community solar bill

What will the rate be for CleanChoice?

Your subscription will always be 10% less than the value of the bill credits you receive. Bill credits are applicable to the entire BGE bill including: delivery, generation, transmission, applicable taxes, and other fees. The value of these bill credits may increase or decrease over the term of the agreement which also affects the subscription price. As of July 13, 2022, the subscription price is 10.79 cents/kWh, compared to BGE's estimated price of 11.99 cents/kWh. This equals an 10% savings of 1.2 cents/kWh.

If I participate in the BGE Customer Choice program and already have another supplier, can I still sign up for community solar through this benefit?

Yes, this program does not conflict with the Customer Choice program. You will continue to have your other supplier through the Customer Choice program for any electricity that the community solar subscription through CleanChoice does not cover.

How does CleanChoice know how large my solar farm share should be?

When you sign up, historical usage requests are sent to BGE. Looking at a full 12 months of usage, CleanChoice is able to determine the size of your share to account for changes in usage throughout the year.

Who notifies BGE about the change in provider on my behalf?

CleanChoice will inform BGE about your new community solar subscription.

How long does it take to get started with CleanChoice after you enroll?

It should take about two billing cycles to start receiving the solar credits. You will receive an email message similar to the one below:

screenshot of an email informing customer that their solar farm is connected to their utility

What happens if I move?

If you move to another residence within the BGE zone, you will keep this benefit for your new residence. If you move outside of the BGE zone, you will have to terminate the agreement in accordance with the terms and conditions in the contract in order to avoid a termination fee (must give 90 days' notice). 

What happens if I leave UMB?

Even if you leave the University, if you still live within the BGE zone, your community solar benefit will continue until the end of the agreement you signed with CleanChoice. 

What if I have additional questions?

We recommend signing up for one of our upcoming info sessions to get any additional questions answered.

Additionally, you can contact CleanChoice Energy at 410-896-1314 with specific questions.

What is UMB doing in terms of renewable energy for campus?

Learn about our three renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs) through the University System of Maryland (USM) on our website.