MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp discussed county solar siting issues before the Task Force on Renewable Energy and Siting on October 17. The Task Force was formed by Governor Larry Hogan earlier this year and will soon be preparing a preliminary report on renewable energy siting recommendations and legislation for the 2020 Session.
Knapp covered several topics in the presentation, including:
- the State’s climate change and energy goals;
- MACo’s general position on solar energy siting;
- MACo’s record on solar energy legislation;
- MACo’s county outreach efforts;
- “Core principles” the Task Force should consider preparing its report;
- Various county zoning and land use actions to address utility-scale solar siting; and
- Useful help for the counties
MACo Position on Solar Energy Siting
MACo supports solar energy development with local zoning and siting requirements as part of the project approval process. MACo recognizes that there needs to be a mix of rooftop, community, and utility-scale solar projects to meet Maryland’s renewable energy goals and has established the following prioritization for solar projects:
- rooftop solar;
- development of solar projects on brownfields, grayfields (such as parking lots and warehouse rooftops), industrial areas, and appropriate government-owned lands (such as landfills and wastewater treatment plants); and
- open space zoned for solar by local governments, with appropriate protections for prime farmland, forestlands, critical areas and wetlands, environmentally sensitive areas, and areas of cultural or historical importance.
“Core Principles” for the Task Force
- Renewable energy development is similar to other forms of development and recognize both its pros and cons
- County zoning and revenue structures should be respected by both the State and renewable energy developers
- Renewable energy developers should reach out to an affected county as early as possible in the development process
- Counties should provide certainty of process for renewable energy developers
- The State role should be one of collaboration and not preemption
- One size does not fit all!
Help for the Counties
Knapp discussed a variety of potential ways to help county governments with renewable energy siting, including education for counties, renewable energy developers, and the public; better access to grid infrastructure data; best practices and examples; State incentives and disincentives for solar development; funding; and technical assistance.
The Task Force meets via conference call and interested stakeholders can participate on the call. The Task Force recently called for comments from all members by October 23. MACo has established a renewable energy advisory committee that will meet shortly to discuss official comments to the Task Force and prepare for the Task Force’s pending report.