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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Solar Rules Considered

BERLIN — Before South Moon Under debuted its solar array this summer the company worked with the Town to ensure that any electricity that it generated but did not use could flow safely back onto the grid. Since then the Town has been working to establish a policy to ensure that as more solar arrays come online they can be easily integrated into the electric system.

At its last meeting of the year, the Town considered a Net Metering Rider, setting out the rules for precisely what is required for a home or business to go solar.

While small solar arrays — those that generate under 30 kilowatts — are not expected to have any major affect on the electric system, larger ones can. 

As Worcester Preparatory School begins to consider coming online with a 168 kwh system, the town is working to make sure the generation doesn’t affect the relays carying the electricity back and forth.

The rider, prepared by the Town, was approved by the Public Service Commission, which is the electric utility governing body, on the first reading.

It makes it lear which responsibilities any customer must meet before they will be allowed to generate their own electricity.

Electric Utility Director Tim Lawrence told the Mayor and Council that it was difficult to speak in broad terms about what would be required generally, saying that the rider provided a framework upon which each potential solar addition could be evaluated on its own merits.

Paula Lynch, who works at Worcester Prep, wanted to make sure the rider’s investment requirements would fall on the home or business putting in the solar power and not on the town.

Lawrence confirmed that the rider was clear that any investment needed to bring a solar array onto the grid would be the responsibility of the installer and not the Town’s ratepayers.

Flexera, the company that installed the array at South Moon Under, worked with the Town to make sure when the system went live there were no glitches.

“There’s actually an interconnection agreement that is filled out by the customer,” Lawrence said. He added that the installation companies generally know what’s required to get the connection made.

Lynch and Councilman Troy Purnell — who sits on the Worcester Prep board of directors — indicated they would abstain from the vote. With their abstentions, and with one councilperson missing from the meeting, the vote on the matter was set aside and will be taken up again at next week’s meeting.

In other Electric Company business, Finance Director Lynn Musgrave reported to the Council on the aging report as it involved commercial customers.

Earlier in the month the Council directed Musgrave to present them with the aging report on commercial customers after the annual audit raised the aging amounts as a potential concern.

While the audit commentary was taken seriously Musgrave pointed out that since it was conducted directly after the billing period the aging report gave a skewed picture of the electric collection processes.

“We’re either exactly the same or we’re doing a little bit better than we were last year,” she said,  adding that either revenues have exceeded budgeted expectations or savings have been realized in the expense category.

The difficulty is that more than half of the monthly commercial billing almost always approaches the 60 day mark before it is paid.

The billing for November was over $600,000, $319,000 of which moved into 30 plus days. Collection efforts can only be initiated after 60 days and Musgrave pointed to the fact that there are no commercial accounts over 60 days.

She said she expected the commercial aging to take a dramatic drop this week as the first late notices began to be mailed and received.

The aging used to be a much more significant problem but a combination of reducing rates and improving economic circumstances was attributed to the reduction over the last 3-4 years.