CB55-2019 Could Hamper Solar Growth

The Howard County Council introduced CB55-2019 last Monday evening (October 7th) that could put a major wrench in the county’s solar growth.  This first piece of legislation introduced by District 5 Council member David Yungmann calls for a moratorium on solar installations while a task force is put into place to consider appropriate solar siting in RC & RR-zoned areas within the county.  This comes after the Maryland General Assembly passed a massive RPS increase last session called the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), requiring 50% of the state’s energy to be sourced by renewables by 2030, with a 14.5% solar carveout. 

Currently, there is approximately 2 million acres of agricultural land in Maryland, 1.4 million of which is active crop land.  In order to meet the CEJA utility-scale solar demand through 2030, only about 15,000 acres of the 2,000,000 would be needed for solar development.  To put it into perspective, around 150,000 acres of current crop land has been zoned for permanent conversion to residential, commercial or industrial by local jurisdictions.  Permanent conversion would mean total crop land loss, but utilizing agriculture land for solar arrays has recently proven to not only successfully coexist with crops, but is proving to be a beneficial win-win.  As “agrivoltaics” has emerged as a meaningful conversion to dual-use farms (food and clean energy production) the idea that crops and PV cannot co-exist is effectively being nullified.

As such, the conversations need to be geared more towards programs to increase appropriate deployment instead of putting the kibosh on installations to review siting parameters.  After all, we’ve got 10 years to really make inroads with climate change (and that’s being generous).

Solar United Neighbors has already jumped on the response by sending a petition out to Howard County residents, gathering opposition to the bill.  According to the petition, the bill could undercut the future’s community solar pilot program- a successful program to date that has just been extended by the state legislature. 

The opportunity to testify on this bill will be at the public hearing on Monday October 21st at 7:00 pm in the Banneker Room at the George Howard Building (3430 Courthouse Drive Ellicott City)

By Simon Zimmer

Maryland farm solar array installer Aurora Energy Inc.
Aurora Energy installed this ground mount solar system on a farm in 2019.

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