In May of 2019, Maryland passed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, mandating that 50% of the state’s electricity be produced by renewable energy sources by 2030. Not only will this cause Maryland SREC prices to increase, but it will also lead to the installation of many new solar energy systems.
And that increase builds on an already-solid solar foundation. In 2018, the state ranked 13th in the US for the most solar installed, going head-to-head with famously sunny states, like Arizona, Nevada, and Florida.
As many Maryland counties break down barriers to make going solar easy, everyone from businesses to farmers to homeowners are installing solar panels as an alternative way to produce free, clean energy.
But some counties rise above the others in terms of solar installations and kWhs generated. Here’s the top ten of Maryland’s 24 counties for solar energy.
How We Calculated the Rankings
We took a look at two factors for each county - the number of installations and the kilowatts (kW) installed. We then ranked the counties for both factors and averaged the results. If any counties were tied, we put the one with more installations first. This is because installations are a better indicator of how easy a county makes it for its businesses and homeowners to go solar, and stops our results from being skewed by big solar farms.
Top 10 Overall
Top 10 by Installs
1. PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD
173.65 MW (#1 in MD) | 15,761 Installations (#1 in MD)
Why Prince George’s County?
Located west of the Chesapeake Bay, Prince George’s County borders Washington DC and is just miles from the nation’s capital. Its acres of award-winning parks and historic sites draw visitors and residents alike. The forward-thinking institutions that call this county home, like the University of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, strive to operate with environmental preservation in mind.
Prince George’s County comfortably takes the lead with both the largest generating capacity and total number of solar installs, in part due to the County’s embracement of solar through their Sustainable Energy Program.
In addition to setting significant renewable energy thresholds for their own County buildings, they make it easier for their residents and businesses (including low-income homes and non-profit businesses) to go solar with grants and credits. Solar is being embraced by people and businesses, not just utilities and solar developers. That’s what we like to see!
FedExFeild in Landover, MD (2 MW)
In 2011, 8,000 solar panels were installed at the home of the Washington Redskins, making it the largest solar project in the DC Metro. The majority of these panels are mounted as carports above the parking lot, providing protected parking for 800 of the stadium’s guests. A smaller portion of the system line the stadium’s roof, while translucent panels are built into a ramp structure.
This massive project covers 100% of the stadium’s electric use on non-game days, and covers 15% when the Redskins are in town. That’s enough electricity to power 300 homes in the area.
2. MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD
110.32 MW (#2 in MD) | 9,793 Installations (#2 in MD)
Why Montgomery County?
Montgomery County is located just north of Washington D.C. and is the most populous county in Maryland. It’s also home to the highest percentage of adults with postgraduate degrees. These residents and their businesses are embracing renewable energy as a way to affordably and sustainably power their lives.
The County of Montgomery has contributed to this through their own solar projects which total 7.6 MW. And with the county’s High Performance Building Property Tax Credit, the Residential Energy Conservation Property Tax Credit, and expedited permitting for Solar PV, they’re making it easier for everyone to follow suit.
Montgomery County clocks in at #2 for overall installations, and has only seven MW-sized projects at the time this article was written, meaning solar is attractive for everyone in Montgomery County.
Community Services for Autistic Adults & Children (CSAAC) Community School of Maryland in Brookeville, MD (41 kW)
Though this project doesn’t compare to others on this list in terms of size, we think it’s worthy of being Montgomery County’s featured project for another reason. It’s got heart.
CSAAC is a non-profit who provides services to children and adults with autism. While it’s often difficult for non-profits to go solar because they are unable to take advantage of the tax-saving incentives, CSAAC found a way to go green while still saving a lot of money on electricity.
In 2019, they installed a 41 kW system on the roof of their Community School of Maryland that will save their organization up to $200,000. That’s money they’ll use to further their mission - “enhancing the lives of individuals with autism.” And it doesn’t stop there. CSAAC is looking to expand their solar portfolio with another solar installation to cover their headquarters and a number of their residential group homes.
3. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD
98.52 MW (#4 in MD) | 7,773 Installations (#3 in MD)
Why Anne Arundel County?
Just south of Baltimore, Anne Arundel County is known as America’s Sailing Capital. Positioned along the Chesapeake it offers miles of shoreline, lighthouses, and plenty of areas for watersports. It’s also home to the state’s capital, Annapolis, which boasts more 18th-century buildings than any other city in the country.
Their spirit of preservation - of both history and nature - has helped put Anne Arundel County on the map for renewable energy with the third most installed systems in the state.
Solar projects in the county get a boost with the county’s Solar Equipment Property Tax Credit, as well as with the High Performance Dwelling Property Tax Credit.
Annapolis Solar Park in Annapolis, MD (18 MW)
Spanning 80 acres, Annapolis Solar Park is among the country’s largest solar farms to be built atop a landfill. The 55,000 solar panels add up to a whopping 18 MW of electricity and produce enough electricity to power 2,500 homes. The City of Annapolis purchases the electricity generated by the system at a reduced rate, cutting tons and tons of CO2 from the air and saving them big money in the meantime.
4. BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD
83.47 MW (#5 in MD) | 6,588 Installations (#4 in MD)
Why Baltimore County?
Baltimore County makes up the area surrounding (but not including) Baltimore City. With well-developed organizations in the educational, healthcare, and retail industries, Baltimore County is home to many businesses and schools who have taken advantage of solar energy’s overhead-reducing benefits. The county also offers nearby places to escape from the busy city life of Baltimore and enjoy nature, like Loch Raven and Lake Roland Nature Reserve in Towson, MD.
Like the other counties that rank at the top of this list, Baltimore County offers tax credits for high-performance homes, giving an added boost the state and federal incentives for installing solar.
Community College of Baltimore County in Catonsville, Dundalk, and Essex, MD (5.1 MW)
In 2015, The Community College of Baltimore County installed 5.1 MW worth of solar energy across three campuses that powers 27% of the college’s electricity needs.
The system totals 16,500 panels that are suspended above parking spaces as carports. In addition to generating electricity for the college, they also provide protection for over 1,400 cars.
5. HARFORD COUNTY, MD
62.01 MW (#8 in MD) | 3,493 installations (#5 in MD)
Why Harford County?
Harford County sits at the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, the heart of Maryland’s economy, culture, and history. Throughout the huge (and well-deserved) focus on cleaning up the bay, the Bel Air, Aberdeen, and Havre de Grace residents and businesses see first-hand how communities can impact the environment. With the fifth most solar installs, their attention has expanded beyond just cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
Harford County produces a solid amount of electricity through solar energy. There are many solar systems owned by homeowners and local businesses that power their everyday lives.
Just like Prince George’s County, Harford County makes going solar easier through a Property Tax Credit for Solar rebate, which gives homeowners and businesses 100% of the total property taxes on the property for one year if they install PV solar.
Kohl’s Department Stores’ E-Comm Distribution Center in Edgewood, MD (2.4 MW)
At the time of its installation in 2013, and still to this day in 2019, this 2.4 MW solar system was Kohl’s Department Stores’ biggest solar project, and that’s saying something. With over 200,000 solar panels on 163 stores, Kohl’s is one of the largest retail company solar hosts in the county.
Their Edgewood system is located on the roof of their one-million-square-foot e-commerce center. With over 8,000 panels, the system can provide over 3 million kWh of electricity each year, providing over 40% of the facility's energy.
6. FREDERICK COUNTY, MD
83.19 MW (#6 in MD) | 2,586 Installations (#8 in MD)
Why Frederick County?
Frederick County is home to Francis Scott Key , the creator of our national anthem and is known for its civil war history. But we’re singing Frederick County’s praises for another reason - their dedication to solar energy.
Frederick County is sandwiched between Pennsylvania to the north and Virginia to the south, and is known as the gateway to Western Maryland. In recent years, the county has experienced a surge in population and in business activity thanks to its proximity to the Washington Metro area.
As the local economy ramps up, many businesses and homes alike are opting to power their daily operations with solar energy.
Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD (17.1 MW)
In early 2012, Mount St. Mary’s and their PPA partner energized what was then the third largest solar-producing plant in the county, though it’s since been surpassed. The university draws from just 1.2 MW of the 17.1 MW system each year. The remaining capacity will go to other businesses.
220,000 solar panels make up the system, which is located across 135 acres. Because of its scale, adjustments to the county’s development codes were required, which the planning commission approved, demonstrating Frederick County’s commitment to clean, sustainable energy.
7. HOWARD COUNTY, MD
44.00 MW (#10 in MD) | 3,327 Installations (#6 in MD)
Why Howard County?
With great schools and its high quality of life, Howard County consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the United States. The high income associated with this county means homeowners have available capital for the initial investment in solar, and businesses have followed suit.
From the solar-powered poles that light up a parking garage to the county’s many systems at libraries, schools, and other public buildings, Howard County itself contributes heavily to the overall MW rating. There are also a few large-scale solar systems that power Ellicott City and Columbia.
Nixon’s Farms in West Friendship, MD (10 MW)
Howard County’s proximity to Baltimore, MD makes it a popular spot for solar farms to fuel the big city’s energy needs. For one spot in particular, Nixon’s Farm in West Friendship, MD, that’s especially so. Broken up into five sites of 2MW each, the system spans 97 acres and provides organizations in the surrounding area with a combined total of 10 MW.
Amongst those drawing power from the farm are Chimes International, a nonprofit servicing people with disabilities and special needs; Baltimore City Public Schools; and Christ Church Harbor Apartments, all based in Baltimore. But a local business is also among those drawing power from the farm - the Columbia Association, an organization dedicated to making Columbia, MD a better community in which to live.
8. CHARLES COUNTY, MD
44.89 MW (#9 in MD) | 2,607 Installations (#7 in MD)
Why Charles County?
The south-western Charles County is home to cities like La Plata, Waldorf, Hughesville, and Indian Head. It offers beautiful landscaped views of the Potomac and plenty of water-based recreation. Just a few dozen miles from the nation’s capital, Charles county is a secluded escape with several state parks perfect for hiking and camping. They also boast the country’s second-largest bald eagle population.
SMECO Solar in Hughesville, MD (6.6 MW)
Charles County is also known for its history, stretching back before the 17th century as farming and hunting ground for Native Americans and later as a settlement for Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll.
However, Charles County didn’t stop making history in the 18th century. In 2012, it became home to Southern Maryland’s first solar farm, which was built by Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) in Hughesville, MD. The 23,716 panels stretch across 33 acres and generate 6.6 MW of energy for the surrounding area.
9. WASHINGTON COUNTY, MD
66.63 MW (#7 in MD) | 1,069 Installations (#12 in MD)
Why Washington County?
Despite being #13 in generating capacity and #12 in overall installations, Washington County ranks on our list at #9. Their combination of kWhs generated and installations help them rise above counties with big solar farms that may rank higher in production but lower in over installations. And for many years, Washington County used to be the #1 county in Maryland for solar generating capacity.
Washington County is home to many significant historic sites, like Antietam Battlefield (the site of the bloodiest day in the civil war [Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle over several days]) and part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. It also has plenty of beautiful outdoors space to explore on foot, bike, or boat. Whatever your fancy, solar energy helps preserve it all.
Staples Distribution Center in Hagerstown, MD (2.0 MW)
Staples installed this 1.5 MW solar system at their Hagerstown, MD distribution facility back in 2010. At the time, this was the state’s largest solar system, and continued to be so for several years. Comprised of 11,000 solar panels (some on the warehouse’s roof, and others ground-mounted), the system provides 2 million kWhs of electricity to the facility annually. However, they didn’t stop there. In 2011, the company installed another 500 kW system, rounding the system’s size to 2 MW. In 2015, another large distribution warehouse nearby followed suit. FedEx Ground Hub installed a 2.7 MW system on the roof of their distribution facility.
10. CARROLL COUNTY, MD
29.71 MW (#14 in MD) | 2,010 Installations (#9 in MD)
Why Carroll County?
Rounding out our list at #10 is Carroll County, known for its scenic roads, well-preserved history, and outdoor attractions. From Westminster to Taneytown to Mt. Airy, solar energy is abundant on rooftops and across open lands.
The county was also awarded the SolSmart Silver Designation for advancing the growth of solar energy through removing obstacles that stand in the way of businesses and homes installing solar, like permitting.
Boscov’s Department Store in Westminster, MD (478 kW)
During a time when department stores struggle to keep up with the innovations made across the rest of the retail industry, regional powerhouse Boscov’s stays fresh and cuts costs with solar energy.
In 2013, they installed solar on the roof of their store at the TownMall at Westminster. The 478 kW system cut their electric bill by 42% - savings them thousands each year. They’ve looked to other stores across the Mid-Atlantic for the same savings, installing four rooftop systems and counting.
Honorable Mention: CECIL COUNTY, MD
34.19 MW (#13 in MD) | 1,352 Installations (#10 in MD)
Why Cecil County?
Both Carroll County and Cecil County scored the same points for their production and installation values, and we couldn’t end on a tie. While Carroll County came out on top thanks to a higher number of installations, Cecil County is certainly worthy of an honorable mention!
Located along the upper banks of the Chesapeake Bay, Cecil County played a key role in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. They have plenty of beautiful scenery from glistening bays to lush forest.
Ikea Distribution Center in Perryville, MD (4.87 MW)</strong?
In 2013, Ikea began their two-phase solar installation which included a total of 25,913 panels across the rooftop of the Perryville distribution center. Completing in 2014, the system was Maryland’s largest rooftop array and generated nearly 6,100,000 kWhs of clean energy each year! And this is only one facility. In 2014, the Sweden-based company had installed solar on nearly 90% of its US buildings.
Where’s the Eastern Shore?
From Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Caroline Counties down to Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, and Worcester Counties, only one of Maryland’s Eastern Shore counties make our list. As an agricultural powerhouse, the Eastern Shore puts their land to use to grow crops and raise animals. However, compared to other areas of the country, Eastern Shore counties still have a substantial amount of solar systems.
Cecil, Somerset, and Wicomico take up the 11th - 13th spots on the list, while Queen Anne’s comes in at 15th. Between the four of them, they have an average of 55.37 kW of capacity and 785 installs. And these numbers keep growing. With plenty of open roof space on barns, chicken houses, and other agricultural buildings, more and more Eastern Shore farmers are saving a lot of money on their electricity costs by switching to solar.