Anne Arundel County Solar Meeting Highlights Conflicting Policy Challenges

A Delmarva Farmer article (2017-07-04) reported on a June 28 meeting between utility scale solar developer OneEnergy Renewables and southern Anne Arundel County residents that highlighted the challenges in siting large scale solar projects in rural and agricultural areas. The article noted that OneEnergy Renewables is hoping to develop three solar projects in predominantly rural southern Anne Arundel as part of a new three-year pilot program to offer solar energy to low- and moderate-income Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. (BGE) electricity customers. The robust debate at the meeting raised a number of difficult and sometimes conflicting policy issues including land values, environmental protection, clean energy, sustainable agriculture, destruction of rural community character, and opening the door for further development. From the article:

Representatives with several companies associated with the projects touted their environmental and cost benefits to consumers. They also reiterated the care and concern that went into siting the projects to adhere to regulations and avoid wetlands, critical areas and wildlife habitat. Natural vegetative buffers will be planted, they said, to help hide the panel farms.

But skeptical residents and farmers peppered the group with a barrage of questions over 90 minutes. One man said he’d spoken with a real estate agent who told him a nearby solar farm would harm his home’s value just before he plans to sell. (Kate Larkin, a manager at OneEnergy, said studies have shown solar farms don’t adversely affect nearby property values.) Others were concerned about the disruption from construction and the infrastructure necessary to complete the projects.

But most comments reflected concern about the region’s culture and heritage. Some families in the area have owned and worked the land since the 17th century, several attendees said, and they are concerned about the number and size of solar and wind energy projects that have proliferated across the state in the last several years.

“This is also an in-road into South County,” one audience member said. “If this starts, it’s not going to stop.” …

But the projects aren’t necessarily harming farms, Larkin said. In fact, the opposite is true in cases. …

Otis Johnson, who owns the Tracy’s Landing property, is one example. He said he leases his land to a farmer and hopes to count on the revenue from the solar project to keep the parcel mostly agricultural and honor his father who worked the land.

“We do not want to subdivide it (into homes) because we understand our rural responsibility,” he said as he stood next to his wife, Kecia.

The article stated that BGE could choose alternative sites to the three proposed South County projects.