Solar Sees Explosive Growth in Maryland and Delaware

An article (2016-07-19) reported that solar projects are seeing phenomenal growth across the Maryland and Delaware region driven by cheaper solar panel technology, tax incentives, and Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard solar requirements. This explosive growth can have effects on both agriculture, as farmland is viewed as a prime location for large scale solar facilities, and local land use planning. From the article:

The total amount of added solar capacity in [Maryland] has grown rapidly over the last six years, according to a 2014 report from The Solar Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit that promotes the industry. In 2010, the state added less than 10 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity from residential, non-residential and utility efforts, the report said. In 2014, it was projected to add nearly 80 megawatts.

Last year — 2015 — promised more than 100 megawatts of expansion.

That includes huge solar projects such as one approved in Somerset County, Md., in March. Built by Canadian firm Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., the farm will reportedly generate up to 150 megawatts on nearly 1,000 acres of leased land comprised of former corn and soybean fields. It stands to be the largest solar farm east of the Mississippi River.

In western Maryland, residents are protesting a plan to install 42,000 solar panels on 86 acres of farmland in Cearfoss. Local leaders in Talbot County placed a moratorium on any solar arrays larger than two acres last month after Apex Clean Energy, a Charlottesville, Va., company, proposed a 370-acre solar project on land zoned for agricultural use.

The article also noted that the boom in solar arrays has led to a commensurate boom in new jobs in the solar field, with over 3,000 people working in Maryland solar in 2014 (a 29% increase over 2013).