Solar power growing in Mid-Atlantic

Solar power generating capacity, like this rooftop photovoltaic array in Pasadena, is growing, PJM Interconnection reports. (Karl Merton Ferron, 2005 / May 16, 2012)

Solar power is gaining a toehold in the Mid-Atlantic region. 

As of this month, the amount of photovoltaic electric generating capacity installed surpassed 1 gigawatt, according to PJM Interconnection, which oversees the electricity transmission grid stretching from Delaware to northern Illinois and western Kentucky. That's enough - when the sun is shining - to power 800,000 to 1 million homes.

Solar capacity has more than doubled in each of the past two years, PJM reports.

Of course, solar is still a tiny fraction of the nearly 186 gigawatts of overall generating capacity supplying power to the grid connecting 13 states and the District of Columbia.  But it's confirmation of the growing appeal of generating electricity from the sun, driven in part by generous government tax breaks and incentives but also by lower costs and creative financing.

Another example of the latter was this week's announcement by Clean Currents, the Rockville-based green energy company, and its partner Solar City, that it's now offering Maryland and Washington DC homeowners a new way to install solar panels at no cost and get cheaper-than-grid electricity. 

The two companies unveiled a residential "power purchase agreement" plan, similar to what businesses and government agencies have been using to install solar with no upfront investment. Several companies have been offering homeowners the option to lease rather than buy solar arrays and buy discounted power that way. The new plan would offer similar financial terms, Clean Currents President Gary Skulnik said, with the added convenience of giving homeowners a single power bill listing their solar and grid-based consumption together.