Frederick County Asks PSC For Pause in Solar Projects While Finalizing Zoning Bill

A Frederick News-Post article (2017-04-19) reported that Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner and County Council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer a letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) on April 11 requesting the PSC hold consideration of two utility scale solar projects while the County finalizes zoning legislation for solar farm siting. The two projects, LeGore Bridge Solar Center and Biggs Ford Solar Center, have applied for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) with the PSC and have requested expedited consideration. The PSC must grant a CPCN before the projects can begin construction. From the article:

The intent of the letter was to make the commission aware that the County Council was working on local legislation, Gardner said Tuesday. …

Keegan-Ayer wrote the [zoning] bill that is currently in front on the council, which would regulate the construction of commercial-scale solar on agricultural land. The bill protects the county’s prime agricultural soils and the viewshed along U.S. 15, which is also recognized as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground.

Another aim of the letter was to alert the commission that the companies may be trying to accelerate their applications and projects in order to circumvent the county’s solar bill, should it pass, Keegan-Ayer said. …

“We’re really trying to strike a balance between the needs of green energy and solar collection, and … our agricultural communities and our agricultural heritage,” Gardner said.

The article also discussed energy siting legislation (HB 1350 of 2017) that was passed by the Maryland General Assembly and is awaiting signing by Governor Lawrence “Larry” Hogan. The legislation was a MACo 2017 Legislative Initiative designed to give a greater local government voice in the siting of energy generation facilities.

Across Maryland, local jurisdictions are having issues controlling energy development, said Leslie Knapp, legal and policy counsel for the Maryland Association of Counties. There have already been lawsuits in Kent County over a solar project and in Allegany County about a wind project.

A state bill that passed both chambers of the General Assembly last session requires the commission to consider whether a proposed energy generating station is consistent with a jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan and its zoning.

The article stated that the current version of the County’s zoning legislation would limit commercial solar facilities  on agricultural land to 75 acres.
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