A Herald-Mail Media article (2019-09-12) reported that the Washington County Planning Commission has offered recommendations on how to incentivize large solar projects on industrial spaces instead of prime farmland. The recommendations touched on tax breaks, requiring the use of buried transmission lines, and wildlife corridors.
The County is seeking to revise its zoning for utility-scale (more than 2 megawatts) solar projects after a recent Maryland Court of Appeals decision found that the State, through the Public Service Commission, preempts local zoning with respect to the siting of energy generation facilities. The article summarized the Commission’s recommendations:
- A break on personal property taxes, which is on equipment, to steer developers away from areas where the county doesn’t want solar farms. The Board of County Commissioners have been split on tax-break agreements for solar farms, with a majority recently granting a few.
- Protecting valuable historic sites.
- Requiring a decommissioning bond for removing the equipment at the end of the solar farm’s life. The bond is protection in case the company goes bankrupt. The county commissioners have been making such a bond a requirement when granting recent tax breaks.
- Looking at allowing solar farms in stormwater-management areas.
The article noted that solar siting is a statewide issue and will likely become more complicated with the passage of Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2019, which requires the state to have 50% of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2030, with 14.5% of that amount coming from solar.