MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp discussed energy facility siting issues at the Solar Focus 2016 Conference on November 17 and agritourism issues at the 2016 Agriculture and Environmental Law Annual Conference on November 18.
Solar Focus 2016
Solar Focus 2016 is a conference sponsored by the Maryland/DC/Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV- SEIA) At the conference, Knapp discussed MACo’s 2017 Legislative Initiative regarding the preemption of local zoning for the siting of “dispersed” energy generation facilities – utility-scale facilities that can be located on farmland or open space. These facilities can include clean energy such as solar and wind, and emergent technologies like gasification and biomass. Knapp stressed the need for county zoning in order to protect prime agricultural lands, historically or culturally important landscapes, and ecologically sensitive areas. He noted that poorly-sited projects could cause significant local disruption and threaten rural economies.
However, Knapp also noted the many benefits of solar projects and stated that counties who wanted to zone for solar would have a responsibility to create viable project sites by taking into account factors important to the industry (grid connections, flat and open land, etc.) Knapp predicted that utility scale solar would play an important role in Maryland’s energy generation going forward and that he believed careful planning now would eliminate problems and unintended consequences later.
Knapp was joined on the panel by Colby Ferguson of the Maryland Farm Bureau, Mike Volpe of Open Road Renewables, and Colin Meehan of First Solar.
2016 Agriculture and Environmental Law Annual Conference
The 2016 Agriculture and Environmental Law Annual Conference is sponsored by the University of Maryland under its Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI). Knapp was part of a panel that included Kevin Atticks of Grow and Fortify and E. Randy Marriner of Manor Hill Brewing. Knapp noted discussed the zoning and use challenges posed by agritourism activities, the collaborative work of the Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission on Agriculture (GICA) to create a model definition for “agricultural enterprise” that includes agritourism activities, and how county planners are continuing to work on the issue.
The Maryland Association of County Planning Officials plans to discuss the issue at its December 2 meeting.