Seattle Firm Proposing Solar Projects in South Anne Arundel County

A Seattle company is proposing to build solar projects on three South Anne Arundel County farms is holding a public meeting this evening to discuss the project and field questions and comments.

According to The Capital Gazette,

The installations could cover about 10 acres of each farm in solar panels, plus access roadways and infrastructure required to convert and distribute the electricity generated at each site.

The company, One Energy Renewables, has been developing medium- sized solar projects on agricultural land across the country.

It was partner in two large projects on the Eastern Shore; the 40,000 solar panel project in a field near Wye Mills providing power for Johns Hopkins and another outside Cambridge, 14,326 panels indirectly supplying The National Aquarium with 40 percent of its electricity needs.

The projects in South County — on a 58-acre property on Sands Road, an 82-acre parcel on Bayard Road and a 50-acre plot on Franklin Gibson Road — would likely have under 8,000 panels each.

According to its website, the company leases land from farm families.

“You’ll be harvesting a renewable resource that promises a stable and long-term source of revenue for your family – one that doesn’t fluctuate with global commodity markets, or vary based on weather events year to year,” the site reads.

Once the lease is up, or the panels have exhausted their usefulness, One Energy says it removes all equipment and infrastructure and the land can be farmed again.

But some farmers wonder if this is the best use of agricultural land.

“I thought the county was committed to preserving agriculture in South County,” said John Ball, who owns 160 acres on Franklin Gibson Road.

“That’s not agriculture, that’s light industrial, if you ask me,” Ball said.

He also questioned the wisdom of plopping down such a complex in the middle of several farms in agricultural preservation.

“The county has to make a decision: Is it going to preserve agriculture or chase solar farms?” he said.

Read the full article for more information.

Will You Throw the First Pitch?

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Step up and share your county’s IT needs at MACo’s Summer Conference.

This year’s MACo Conference offers attendees an opportunity to voice county government information technology interests directly to private sector providers in an informal, informational format.

Share challenges & discover capabilities in this new Tech Wednesday offering.

SWITCH PITCH” IGNITE! — Meet Your Match: Solutions to County IT Challenges

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Gain quick insight into what tech can do for county governments in this fast-paced session. County IT and management professionals will state their needs, and vendors in the Tech Expo Tradeshow will respond with their pitch for solving the top tech issues. Attendees will get a chance to learn a little about a lot of vendors in a short period of time. Listen and learn!

Example County Pitches

  1. How do I empower employees to work from home in a secure and productive manner at minimal cost to the County?
  2. There are so many mobile apps in the market. Other than reading through the reviews, how can one determine the overall quality of a mobile app?  Is there a standard to check an app’s quality? What is it?
  3. What and where have been some of the more successful public/private partnerships providing broadband to unserved rural areas?

SIGN UP HERE TO BE A PART OF THIS SESSION Space is limited – Reply by July 19.

Have a pitch, but you are not attending this session?  Contact Robin Clark Eilenberg at MACo.

Tech Wednesday Vendor List

  • AVI-SPL, Inc
  • CDW-G
  • Comcast
  • Commvault
  • Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc.
  • Data Networks of America
  • ePlus Technology Inc.
  • Esri
  • Freedom Broadband
  • Fujitsu America, Inc.
  • GovDeals, Inc.
  • Juniper Networks
  • Lenovo
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Maryland Libraries
  • Maryland Relay
  • Motorola Solutions, Inc.
  • Musco Sports Lighting
  • NIC Maryland
  • Phillips Office Solutions
  • Presidio
  • Prosys Information Systems
  • Regent Development Consulting, Inc. (RDC)
  • Ricoh USA, Inc.
  • Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.
  • Rudolph’s Office & Computer Supply, Inc.
  • SAIC
  • ShoreScan Solutions
  • Splunk
  • Sprint
  • Supply Solutions, LLC
  • Tomi Environmental Solutions

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Bay “Dead Zone” Predicted to Be Larger Than Average This Year

After the Chesapeake Bay enjoyed the highest levels of dissolved oxygen in decades last year, a Bay Journal blog article (2017-06-15) reported that the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and the University of Michigan are predicting the Bay’s oxygen-starved “dead zone” will be larger than in recent years – growing to 1.9 cubic miles. The article indicated that weather was a key factor in the growth of the dead zone. From the article:

“The forecast is a reminder that the improvements such as we saw last year are subject to reversal depending on weather conditions—two steps forward, one step back,” said UMCES President Donald F. Boesch. …

This spring, scientists say, heavy rains fell in Pennsylvania and New York, which flushed an above-average amount of nitrogen down the Susquehanna River. …

“Although the higher forecasts for this summer seem to buck a recent trend toward lower anoxic volumes in Chesapeake Bay, they are consistent with known links between high river flows and oxygen depletion,” said Jeremy Testa, assistant professor at the UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

The article noted that despite the dead zone forecast, overall Bay health has shown signs of long-term improvement based on the restoration and pollution reduction efforts undertaken by the federal government, states, and local governments.

“Despite this year’s forecast, we’ve made great strides in reducing nutrient pollution from various sources entering the Chesapeake Bay, and we are starting to see positive long-term signs,” said Rob Magnien, director of NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. “However, more work needs to be done to address non-point nutrient pollution from farms and other developed lands, to make the Bay cleaner for its communities and economic interests.”

The article also discussed the importance of continued federal funding for Bay restoration efforts.

 

State Climate Change Commission Moving Ahead With Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plans

The Maryland Commission on Climate Change (MCCC) met on June 21, 2017, and re-committed to the continuation of its climate change goals, including the State’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030.

Maryland’s Position on Climate Change at State and National Levels 

Maryland Secretary of the Environment Benjamin Grumbles reiterated that Governor Larry Hogan and Maryland will be moving forward with the State’s climate change action plan and is encouraging other states to participate in REGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative). Grumbles also noted that the State is reviewing the newly formed United States Climate Alliance but has not yet decided whether it will participate.

Maryland Senator Paul Pinsky stressed the importance of remaining in the Paris Climate Accord and that the Climate Alliance represented a key opportunity to continue United States participation. (Previously President Donald Trump had announced the United States was withdrawing from the Paris Accords but intended to rejoin after renegotiating participation terms.) Grumbles responded that the Governor has stated the importance of the United States participating in the Accord but that Maryland’s participation in the Alliance is still under review and there could be other equally effective methods of encouraging climate change.

Chesapeake Climate Action Network founder and director Mike Tidwell argued that participating in the Alliance sent an important message and that strengthening REGGI (particularly the cap) was also critical. Grumbles agreed that REGGI could be improved and did not rule out Maryland’s ultimate participation in the Alliance.

Discussion on “40 by 30” Goal

The bi-partisan Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2016 (SB 323) requires Maryland to achieve a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from their 2006 levels by 2030. The legislation also includes some economic and job protections as the State works to achieve the reduction goal. Maryland is on track to meet a prior emission reduction goal of 25% by 2025.

The new 40 by 30 draft plan is due by end of 2018 and a final plan is due by the end of 2019. There is a mid-point review in 2022 and the Act must be reauthorized through legislation in 2023.  The plan must reduce 57 to 61 metric tons of greenhouse gases to account for existing pollution sources and anticipated population and pollution growth.

The current 2025 plan will get the State a good portion of the way, but will leave a gap that must be addressed. Programs for more fuel efficient cars and aircraft and electric vehicles should help. The State is developing better data on carbon sequestration by wetlands and trees.

Pinsky raised concerns about the accuracy of some of the assumed greenhouse gas emission and reduction assumptions and that other policy options, such as a carbon tax, must be at least discussed. Grumbles noted that the assumptions are based on modeled and need further refinement and that the discussed programs were not necessarily the only programs that could be considered.

The MCCC decided to have a further discussion on the issue through its workgroups and at future meetings. It was also noted that the plan needs to consider what will need to be done beyond 2030, even though future goals have not yet been set.

New Climate Change Commission Website

MCCC has just launched a new and more user-friendly website. The website will be further refined over time to ensure ease of use and public accessibility.

2017 MCCC Annual Report

The deadline of the 2017 MCCC Annual Report is November 15, 2017.

Other Actions

MCCC also received an update on the climate change activities of various State agencies, approved a series of one-page climate change handouts for final review, and reviewed the activities of its four work groups.

Useful Links

MCCC Website

PSC Nixes Wind Project in Allegany County

The Maryland Public Service Commission has sided with a public utility law judge’s order denying a wind-power developer’s request to construct a 17-turbine wind farm on Dan’s Mountain, effectively killing the project.

Cumberland Times-News reports,

In a 16-page document released Friday, the PSC affirmed an order issued by Chief Public Utility Law Judge Terry J. Romine in January. The PSC denied Dan’s Mountain Wind Force’s request for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity as well as any other outstanding requests or motions not granted, according to the document.

Dan’s Mountain Wind Force had appealed the judge’s decision in February.

“We find that the project will have an adverse impact on the esthetics of the local communities on and around Dan’s Mountain,” according to the PSC documents. “Further, we find that the adverse impact caused to the comfort of nearby residents by the noise produced and the shadow flicker perceived will not be fully mitigated by incorporating licensing conditions …”

Allegany County officials had also previously denied permits for the project.

Dan’s Mountain Wind Force has argued that the project will create much-needed jobs and tax revenue for the county.

Construction costs were estimated at between $90 million and $100 million by the developer.

Last year during a PSC hearing, Allegany County residents spoke out in opposition of the proposed project, many citing health concerns.

Opponents of the project formed an organization named ANCHOR (Allegany Neighbors & Citizens for Home Owners’ Rights) to challenge the wind farm, expressing concerns including noise and destruction of the views in the neighborhood.

“We find that benefits that may accrue to the public at large by construction of the project do not justify or offset subjecting the local community to the adverse impacts that will result from the project’s construction and operation,” according to the PSC documents.

Read the full article for more information.

Grumbles Elected Chair of Interstate Air Pollution Board

Amid a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for better air pollution control in five states, Maryland was selected to lead a regional air quality board.

Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles was unanimously elected chairman of the Ozone Transport Commission.

The Frederick News-Post reports,

The commission is a 13-state collaboration created under the federal Clean Air Act to control interstate smog. It advises the EPA on the long-distance movement of airborne pollution from power plants, vehicles and factories and develops regional solutions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Maryland and other states are currently trying to figure out how to comply with new National Ambient Air Quality Standards that lower acceptable levels of ozone from 75 to 70 parts per billion. Seventy percent of Maryland’s ozone currently comes from out of state sources, Grumbles said during an in-person interview on Friday.

Ozone acts as natural protection from ultraviolet radiation as light passes through the higher parts of the atmosphere. At the ground-level, ozone – also known as smog – can irritate the respiratory system and aggravate asthma and other chronic lung diseases.

Maryland has one of the best air quality modeling and monitoring systems in the region, Grumbles said. He brings data and scientists to the meetings with him to help the commission.

Grumbles served as secretary during his first year on the commission in 2015 and then vice-chairman in 2016.

“It’s an opportunity for us to make sure the Ozone Transport Commission follows the science,” Grumbles said.

Read the full article for more information.

 

Howard Extends Tax Credit Promoting Green Homes

Howard County has extended its green building tax credit for another five years. County Executive Allan Kittleman signed into law legislation extending the property tax credits for residential “high performance” buildings, in an effort to continue encouraging sustainable building practices for new residential construction and remodeling projects. To qualify for the credit of up to $5,000 per property, the residential properties must receive LEED certification at the Silver level or higher from the U.S. Green Building Council and applications must be submitted prior to April 1, 2022.

From the county’s press release:

“The residential High Performance Building Credit program has been successful in promoting sustainable building as 134 residents have purchased ‘green’ homes and received the tax credit, said Kittleman. “In Howard County, we want to continue that momentum in a sustainable and economically viable way.”

Joshua Greenfeld, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Maryland Building Industry Association, commented, “By going through the process of designing homes to the LEED standards, builders learn about green building technology and it becomes more main stream and accepted while providing homeowners a great product at a price they can afford. This is a win for the county and for homeowners. We applaud County Executive Kittleman in his support of this very important program.”

Bernie Fowler Conducts 30th Annual Bay Wade-In, NASA Adopts “Sneaker Index”

A Bay Net article (2017-06-13) reported on the 30th annual Chesapeake Bay wade-in by former Maryland State Senator and MACo President Bernie Fowler. In what is now a tradition, each year Senator Fowler wades into the Chesapeake Bay until the white sneakers that he wears are no longer visible. Fowler and others have used this unofficial “sneaker index” to highlight the overall health of the Bay. The article noted that sneaker visibility in the Bay was less than 10 inches in the early 1980s but reached a high of 44.5 inches in 2015. The 2017 index was 41.5 inches. From the article:

[Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer], who lives on the Patuxent River in St. Mary’s County, added that Fowler’s actions and advocacy as first a county commissioner and then a state senator helped significantly reduce the tons of sediment that pollute the river.

Greg Bowen, a former Calvert County Department of Planning and Zoning director and county native, stated that Fowler “has always relied on science” when assessing the state of the region’s waterways. Bowen credited Fowler with stopping “direct discharge” sewerage systems in Calvert when he was a local elected official. …

Maryland Department of Environment Secretary Ben H. Grumbles and Department of Planning Secretary Wendi W. Peters presented Fowler with a proclamation from Hogan. Grumbles drew applause when he told the gathering that the Hogan Administration was committed to pressing the Trump Administration for the full restoration of funds previously earmarked for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. “We are all inspired by your leadership,” Grumbles told Fowler.

A Phys.org article (2017-06-05) reported that NASA is adopting Fowler’s “sneaker index” as an easy-to-understand method to communicate about the health of the Bay and that the index is actually based on sound science. From the article:

Now NASA is adopting Fowler’s sneaker idea to communicate satellite measurements of water clarity, enabling the observations to be shared easily with interested the general public, local governments or anyone who is interested. NASA scientists calling this algorithm “Fowler’s Sneaker Depth”—the depth of water, in meters, at which a person can no longer see their white shoes. The study was published in the April 2017 edition of The Optical Society journal Optics Express. …

“When you talk to people about the chemistry of the river with scientific words like eutrophication, it goes in one ear and out the other,” said Fowler. “If you put on white sneakers and wade out in the river until you can’t see your feet, that gives you pretty good understanding of what’s going on.” …

Although the sneaker depth was primarily designed as a communication outreach tool for the public, the NASA team doesn’t discount its use for science. The sneaker depth concept is actually similar to the Secchi disk depth measurement made monthly by the Chesapeake Bay Program. In oceanography, scientists lower a plain, white disk one foot in diameter – called a Secchi disk—into the water on a rope and record the depth at which it disappears from sight. These measurements are useful for marine scientists who want to know what depth the light is reaching to understand how the phytoplankton and other underwater vegetation are growing.

“Fowler’s Sneaker Depth will come in as a metric to look at long term water clarity trends for scientifically meaningful results and communicate those to the general public,” said Ivona Cetinic, an oceanographer with the Universities Space Research Association at NASA Goddard and one of the study’s authors.

Your Boat Tax At Work! $10.5 Million for 49 County Waterway Projects

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As reported, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is providing $10.5 million in Waterway Improvement Fund grants to improve public boating access and navigation throughout the state.

From the Department:

Funded projects include the dredging of local navigation channels, maintaining public boating access facilities, improving parking and upgrading existing infrastructure such as bulkheads, piers and ramps. Funding is also provided to local first responders to enhance water rescue operations.

“From cruising the Chesapeake Bay to maneuvering the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, boating is a way of life in Maryland,” Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “The Waterway Improvement Fund is a vital state resource that ensures that residents and visitors alike will continue to benefit from Maryland’s world-class recreational boating opportunities for years to come.”

The Waterway Improvement Fund was created in 1966 by Natural Resources Article 8-701 to support the development, use, and enjoyment of all waters of the State of Maryland for the benefit of the general boating public. Revenues for this Fund are obtained primarily from the one-time 5% excise tax that is paid to the State of Maryland when a boat is purchased and titled in the State. For more information see the Department of Natural Resources Grants for Waterway Improvements and Your Boat Tax At Work!

100 Brilliant Ideas

The National Association of Counties recently announced the winners of “100 Brilliant Ideas at Work,” an initiative of NACo President Bryan Desloge.

The 100 Brilliant Ideas illustrate the best innovations in county government, according to the National Association of Counties (NACo).

“These brilliant ideas can serve as examples for counties across the country. Though no two of America’s 3,069 counties are exactly alike, many face similar challenges and can learn from one another’s ideas and experiences,” said NACo President Bryan Desloge.

Montgomery County’s GreenFest and Prince George’s County’s LitterTRAK and PGCLitterTRAK, mobile apps for tracking progress toward cleaner and healthier waterways are featured as brilliant ideas by NACo.

NACo will recognize the winners of its brilliant ideas competition at its 2017 Annual Conference and Exposition July 21–24 in Franklin County, Ohio. Three Maryland counties have registered for the Annual Conference already. Will your county be represented?

Contact Robin Clark Eilenberg with questions about the conference, or register for the Conference with NACo.