Bill To Regulate Large Solar Arrays Introduced On Tuesday

A hearing is scheduled for next month.

Frederick, Md. (KM)  Legislation to regulate large solar arrays was introduced on Tuesday during a Frederick County Council meeting. The bill says these projects are permitted in agricultural zones with a special exception.

It says an applicant must comply with all federal and state regulations. That person must notified the neighbors and hold a meeting in the areas of the proposed facility.

In addition, the solar array cannot be located in areas with an agricultural preservation easement, or designated as a Priority Funding Area or a Rural Legacy Area. The project is not allowed within five-miles of the center line of Route 15 outside of Frederick city, and the area it occupies must not exceed the lesser of 10% of tillable acreage or 75-acres in size. Also, there must be 25-feet of deep buffering and screening along the common property lines between the solar facility and adjoining residential communities.

Last year, County Executive Jan Gardner issued an executive order putting a moratorium on these projects.

“There was a large number of applications that were coming through for the large acreage solar array systems. And it was causing some concern on the part of the Planning Commission as well as the Board of Appeals as to how the county wanted to handles these larger systems,” said Council Vice President MC Keegan-Ayer, who introduced the legislation.

During the public hearing section of the meeting, Bob Collyer with One Energy Renewables, spoke out against it. “The acreage restrictions of the lesser of 75-acres or 10% of tillable acreage, will almost certainly constrict any future solar projects out of business,” he said. Collyer says he’s working with a property owner to develop Baker Point Solar Project in Creagerstown.

Council Billy Shreve also expressed opposition, pointing to the requirement where the project cannot be within five-miles of the center of Route 15. “It’s almost exactly like a bill that they’re putting forward from the Monocacy River plan, which is just an arbitrary taking by a government;  one more property right being taken from our citizens, and they’re not compensated for it, ” he said.

Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater had this retort. “We have had a whole year of this moratorium, and I did not see my colleague, Councilmember Shreve, bring forth any bills to solve the problem,” she said. “So he obviously has a lot of suggestions, so I look forward to seeing the amendments that will be coming forward after we have the public hearing.”

The public hearing on this bill is scheduled for February 7th, 2017.


By Kevin McManus