A Brighter Future for Maryland

As we close the year and reflect on the progress we’ve made together, we wanted to share the stories of the people behind the policies.

In this “People Behind the Policies” blog, we hear from one of the founders of Maryland-based Astrum Solar and learn how their business relates to our goal to Increase Maryland’s In-State renewable generation 20% by 2022.

You’ve probably driven past them and not even noticed. For the past five years, more and more citizens of Maryland have been putting solar panels on their roof and producing the power that runs their television, microwave and computer themselves. The electricity they are producing is clean solar energy produced by systems installed by Maryland companies and Maryland workers.

Astrum Solar is one of the companies helping to bring solar to Maryland homes. Started in 2008 by Vadim Polikov, Josh Goldberg and Ben Davis (Vadim and Josh are Maryland natives) and headquartered in Howard County, Astrum has installed nearly 1,000 solar electric systems in Maryland alone. Astrum Solar’s mission is to spread solar power to the rooftops of America. More and more people around the country are ready to take control of their unpredictable utility costs and reduce their electricity bills and carbon footprints. When they make that decision, Astrum is there to guide them and make going solar easy and rewarding.

With that mission, in under five years Astrum Solar has expanded to twelve states, created 100 Maryland jobs and been named the 2nd fastest growing company in the nation by Inc. Magazine.  As Astrum has grown, Maryland as a state has seen an explosive growth in solar installations. In the past 22 months alone, solar capacity in the state has grown by approximately 700%. This growth was made possible by considered policies put in place by the state years ago. Maryland instituted a broad but responsible grant program that seeded the market by helping home and business owners afford the upfront cost associated with solar. Maryland also affirmed its commitment to clean energy by demanding that a percentage of its power be produced by clean sources, specifically solar. These policies are largely the result of the smart government and vision of Governor Martin O’Malley, a trusted partner of Astrum Solar.

The solar industry has changed a lot since Maryland took those first steps. Declines in the cost of materials have made solar affordable for everyone without state assistance. Accordingly, the grant has decreased dramatically. Advances in financing now allow people to go solar for no money down. The market for solar is taking off nation-wide, and Maryland has positioned itself to benefit from the economic development and local jobs that come with this expansion. And let’s not forget that this growth helps Maryland to preserve its air and water quality while limiting its dependence on foreign fuels.

Despite this initial success, there is much more to do. Renewables and solar are still only emerging as major power sources and Astrum Solar has considerable growth ahead of it. Maryland will need to continue to take appropriate and considered steps toward a clean energy future to preserve and expand the considerable gains it has already made. As it does this, Astrum Solar will continue to grow and give Maryland citizens the ability to choose clean, affordable, self-produced electricity.

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This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joe December 09, 2012 at 03:16 PM
We have had 2 PV proposals for our home in the past year. We have a 1500f2 home. Not old and well insulated. WE installed new high performance windows a few years back which helped measurably. We have done everything possible to minimize our electric usage. WE average about 450 kWh a month. The first company needed my electric bills for the past year and I supplied them. They sent me a proposal based on 1000 kWh a month even though they had not only the BGE bills but a spreadsheet on my actual bills which showed them the use of 450 kWh a month on average. That proposal had a savings of $29 a month. Then a $2900 up front payment for the install etc. I was surprised they sent a proposal which was based on about 50% more than we use. Then they sent a second proposal and it was based on the correct usage but only had a savings of $18 a month. Hardly worth it since we use most of our electric when we are home and it is dark. To buy a storage system would have been cost prohibitive. Thus the savings were negligible at best.
Joe December 09, 2012 at 03:17 PM
The second company was about the same numbers. Hardly worth the investment given the savings. If one has plenty of cash to throw around and savings month to month are not your goal then go for it. If you are a typical working family it is still cost prohibitive and the savings are not worth the expense and the intermittent nature of PV arrays. Not to mention you better have a large roof facing South and a somewhat new roof since it will be covered by the installation and access will be limited when a new roof is required. Then the warranty is shorter than the life and efficiency of the cells themselves. Solar has a very very long way to go to be accepted by the masses.
JTS53 December 10, 2012 at 03:03 PM
The future of Maryland will be brighter when O'Malley's term ends and we can elect responsible leadership.
Jeff Hawkins December 10, 2012 at 04:03 PM
@JT About as true a statement as I have ever seen here. Here's to a "brighter" future indeed, for his reign will surely end.....
jag December 10, 2012 at 04:22 PM
BGE doesn't allow you to "sell" (either for $$ or just credits) back to the grid? Or is interconnection w/BGE problematic? It's a fairly common process to get around the variance between day/night, summer/winter, etc. and get your electric bills down to/close to zero. But I don't know anything about BGE, specifically.
1ke December 10, 2012 at 05:01 PM
You looked into this carefully, Joe. Was there any mention of selling unused power back to the grid or was the estimate taking the sell-back into account? Given the downward trend of natural gas prices, it has been hard to pick a winner. You went beyond due diligence.
Steve December 10, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Onward and upward for the Governor. He will be the next POTUS or Senator and either Anthony Brown or SRB will be the next Governor.
Joe December 10, 2012 at 09:25 PM
jag and 1ke, the proposals included the "buy back" of electric generated and not used. Something that is very hard to estimate in a proposal given the intermittent nature of PV. If we did not do all the things we did in our home and our kWh usage was closer to normal of about 1000-1200 kWh we could have saved more and it would have been more cost effective. But the things we did seem to have been a better cheaper choice than solar. New efficient windows, new white roof shingles, sealed all the duct in the home which made the 2nd floor much much more comfortable in both seasons. I can't believe how much conditioned air was leaking out of the duct system. Added a foot of insulation to the attic. Put CFL's in all fixtures that they work in except a few where we need immediate bright light like stairways. Put our entertainment systems and televisions, DVR's etc all on power blocks that are shut off when no one is home thus no standby power use. WE also put electric timers on our water heaters after testing the loss of heat over time and now the water heaters only have power to them for 3 hours a day. Haven't yet run put of hot water. Efficiency and other ways to reduce have been much more cost effective for us. And we don;t have to worry about the sun shining.
jag December 10, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Very cool.
Chris W December 10, 2012 at 10:24 PM
We will be bankrupt long before then.
1ke December 11, 2012 at 12:37 AM
We wear sweaters and use fans mainly. White shingles. Small gas stove. Gas-fired steam furnace. Wood burning stove. Scrounged wood. We budget bill at $162/month. Might go solar on a small home on the Eastern Shore.
JustABill December 11, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Steve, you have once again proven to us all that you really do not know what you are talking about. While it is abundantly clear that MO'M is already campaigning for the 2016 Presidential election, neither Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown or Mayor Blake have even so much as hinted at a possible run for Gov. in 2014. The current democrats expected to run are Doug Gansler, Ken Ulman, and Peter Franchot with Anthony Brown then running for Attorney General and SRB running for another term as Mayor because she knows she has little to no chance of running against those three. Now what this has to do with solar energy is still baffling to me but I just had to point out the unsurprising ignorance of your comment.
DHAMMER December 12, 2012 at 03:06 AM
I like Omalleys Future,out of this State where he's choking hard working Maryland Legal Citizens out of their hard earned money to pay for his entitlement Programs for CASA Buddies and Urbanites.


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