I am hastened to write a letter to your readers hoping to head off potential problems that are now converging on the Eastern shore electric power grid.
This letter’s purpose is simply to warn future investors in private solar generation within a certain area, people with the best of intentions to saving a warming planet, to be prepared for another wait. A long one and one you didn’t expect.
I was recently (painfully) made aware, after waiting for one year to connect to the local electric power “grid” with newly installed solar photovoltaic panels, that the grid is essentially closed to new installations where we live. We are ( to coin a phrase) locked out, and without explanation.
Our power provider, Choptank Electric, a rural electric cooperative, apparently has a substation capacity problem where the grid cannot handle any more electrical generation from solar or wind powered systems. We find now without warning from Choptank and with no warning, reply, or elaboration by the utility.
All this is especially Very annoying after a frustrating full one year application, receive a denial for connection and no future of such connection scheduled. Can they do this? Yes they can.
Choptank Electric is a utility that was formed in the depression era to connect people to the electric grid, because early profit hungry electric utilities in cities refused access to rural areas if they could not recoup expenses in the early days of electrification ( Not true anymore ).
Of course we suspect that these cooperatives are interested mostly in selling/providing power not buying from customers. State law requires all utilities in Maryland to offer grid access to solar customers, but now because of undersized utility connections, a problem that has shut down possible upgrades, ours included, the power sharing deal is apparently off.
After entering the ridiculously overzealous world of building permits, electrical connection drawings, various permissions and time to review, you’d think any reasonable utility would see this problem coming and at the very least warn customers of this impending issue. Or at least alert you to the possible issue at the time of application. Nothing like that. No warning , just a denial. Maddening! Irresponsible!
Yet, I am not lost on the irony of problem, the very companies whose mission ( was and is ) to connect the rural communities to the power grid find themselves denying access to the grid as power generators.? All this seems so counterproductive, and yet without any actual response from Choptank after many attempts ,we are left to wonder and come to own conclusions.
The Conclusion, at least mine is, sadly, that this is 1) very bad planning by leadership at Choptank and or 2) perhaps fossil fuel power providers ( big ones) are taking hostages like choptank coop ( So, gun to head, you buy our power or none at all.
So, are the fossil fuel companies conspiring against green power ? It’s America and independent unregulated business always seems to always have a devious intent. Anyway, it smells like it to me but without comment from the utility we wouldn’t know.
Yet , potentially, our peninsula could provide good clean source of energy and connections to consumers who need power in grids within the Philadelphia Baltimore Washington areas , this should be something we as a a rural farming area can gladly offer and profit from .
Why not let our region be Known for renewable solar farming rather than further polluting the bay with the effluent of eastern shore chicken farms. Seems like it’s an golden economic opportunity to transition away from destructive agriculture for the area, but it’s not if we can’t connect to metro area grids through transmission lines. If government and power utilities can’t get out of their own way , why shouldn’t the consumer have options to provide their own power.
I’m providing a link to an article by Bill Gates , an initiative he has financed to update the national electric grid. You may want to read this too, I do recommend the article. It’s constructive and it lays out the possible fixes.
If you are in Choptank electric coop country ( see red out regions of map provided below by Choptank ) you’d be smarter to invest in a battery storage system to accept your new electric generation, and don’t expect any SREC credits from your over-generation and Size only to what you can use in the short term.
Battery storage can cost as much as the actual solar panel installation so be forewarned of this high add on option . A few companies offer lithium ion battery back up batteries , LG is one, but they cost upwards of 10k for a 8 kilowatt system. Expensive!
We had actually contacted our regional new state senator ( we got no reply) complaining that these rural electric companies freeze out customers looking for energy independence. No honorable intention should be penalized. No good intention should go punished. We need to do better and we expect a lot better treatment from our public utilities.
Letters to Editor
Joyce DeLaurentis says
I am very disheartened by this news.
I do hope that this article will reach those about to make a big investment!
Alex Sydnes says
Choptank isn’t a public utility. It’s a member-supported co-op.
Chris Roberts says
I evaluated solar, too, mainly for the ROI and potential to be energy independent. I was told by Choptank that the grid was closed, and that’s that. Also told I can’t switch to Delmarva Power, even though the other side of my street is serviced by Delmarva Power. No exceptions, No explanation, no service, no support, no one to escalate to, no indication about whether the grid would be ‘opened’ in the future. Choptank Electric is a Co-Op in name only.
Steve Shimko says
Even though it’s a co-op, Choptank is still regulated by the Maryland Public Service Commission. I would contact them to see if you can get more information as to what the limits are, and whether Choptank has any capital plans to relieve those bottlenecks.
Jay Corvan says
Since this article was printed and published I’ve learned a bit
More about what happened. It turns out the grid via choptank coop has been closed for some time. My solar agent did not do diligence and Check to see if there was space. That’s a serious mistake for sure.
But neither did choptank rise to warn us of this at the time of our application for connection to the grid that was their problem. They have since apologized and I understand how these things happen.
What I find most disheartening is the local utility is not able to
Do much about it. Selling to other vendors outside of the
User area is not even permitted. I was not aware of this policy and I cannot see how we as a nation get to energy independence and Freedom from fossil fuel burning without any kind of Agreement between utilities and vendors.
It kind of places this burden of clean energy in the personal Laps of the individual Users. . I suspect it’s a big national problem not just a local one.
Larry Ryan says
Lets get to work and un-elect Congressman Andy Harris. He works for the Fossil Fuel interests and consistently pushes back against development of new green energy projects. He does not represent the best interests of people living on Delmarva!
Rick C says
It’s clear that our distribution and transmission grids need substantial upgrades to accommodate the bidirectional energy flows associated with distributed energy resources. The problem is who is going to pay for those upgrades? In the case of Choptank, why should all its customers pay for the substation upgrades when only those who put solar on their roofs stand to gain financially? This is an ongoing battle happening at the national level with some states arguing that they should not have to pay for transmission grid upgrades needed only to facilitate the renewable goals of other states. There is no easy solution, we can either wait till renewables cause grid reliability issues and the upgrades will have to be done, or we take a proactive approach. And that is a policy/political decision.