Solar FAQ

Doesn’t SMECO lose money when customers install their own solar?

SMECO doesn’t lose money on the energy supply because SMECO only pays for the amount of energy customers use. When customers produce their own energy and use less energy supplied by the grid, their distribution costs are reduced. Distribution charges cover the cost of SMECO’s electric system, vehicles, buildings, power lines, substations, transformers, etc.

Questions you should ask a solar contractor
  • Are you a licensed and certified installer?
  • How much energy do you estimate I will produce?
  • When you size my system based on my home, can you give me different options on sizes and costs and how they will affect the amount of energy I will use from the grid?
  • How much will the installation cost? Do I have to pay anything up front? Are there financing options or monthly fees?
  • How much of a reduction will I receive on my monthly SMECO bills? (Summer, winter, spring, and fall will be different based on the angle of the sun, the amount of energy used, and the amount of energy you produce.)
  • If leasing, what are the details of the lease agreement? Number of years? Interest rate?
  • What happens if I sell my home? Is the lease transferable to a new homeowner?
  • What if my roof needs new shingles or I want the system removed, is there a buyout?
  • Do I need special homeowner’s insurance?
  • Will I need any upgrades to my electric system? If so, who will pay SMECO or an electrician to make the upgrades and how much will they cost?
  • Can the solar panels be installed anywhere on my property or only on my roof?
  • Will I receive any tax credits?
  • How many systems have you installed in the area and do you have references that I can check? Please provide names and contact information for local SMECO customers for whom you’ve done PV installations.
Can I install my solar panels myself or do I need to work with a contractor?

You aren’t required to work with a solar installation company, but most customers do. If you are installing a PV system yourself, you need to have the technical expertise to provide SMECO with the required information.

Customers who have a solid electrical background, who are mechanically inclined, and who know their county’s electrical and building codes may be able to install their own PV system. After SMECO reviews your application, you need to get the proper county permits.

Building a new home? Consider installing a PV system from the start.

Customers building a new home may be able to include the cost of their PV system in the mortgage, which may save on financing costs. Talk to your lender to get details before you install your system. In addition, with a lower monthly utility bill, you may have a better income to debt ratio, which may allow you to borrow more for your mortgage.

How do I start?

Most SMECO customers use a solar installation company and that contractor completes most of the paperwork and provides the utility with most of the required information. This step-by-step guide outlines the steps that SMECO and the customer take to complete the process: Interconnection Procedures (PDF).

How do I apply?

All Maryland utilities have the same application process. You can complete SMECO’s application online using PowerClerk. If you use a solar installation company, that firm will normally supply most of the information required.

Will SMECO charge me to install a net meter?

SMECO does not charge for exchanging the standard residential meter for a net meter. The net meter will measure the amount of energy the customer uses and the amount of energy the customer produces; customers are billed for the difference—the net amount of energy used.

Will SMECO charge me to install a PV system?

SMECO does not charge for the Level One applications (for systems that are 20 kW or less). Level Two and Level Three applications cost $260 and Level Four applications cost $950. However, if you require SMECO to make upgrades to accommodate your system, you will be charged for the upgrades.

Visit North Carolina State University’s DSIRE USA site for a listing of grants, tax credits, and other incentives available.

How much do PV systems cost?

The cost of solar systems varies and depends on the arrangement between the customer and installer. Tax incentives or rebates could also be available from the federal or state government. Some customers lease systems for a long period. Leasing options generally include a price per kilowatt-hour that escalates at an annual percentage rate. The terms of your contract may vary, so be sure to review it thoroughly and make sure you understand it before you commit.