Council to Consider Industrial Solar Moratorium on Ag Land

The Baltimore County Council will hear public testimony on legislation (Bill 102-18) proposing a 9 month industrial solar moratorium in Resource Conservation Zones on January 15th at 2pm. This proposal, sponsored by Councilman Kach additionally calls for an extensive study to be conducted for the purpose of future Solar legislation.

The crux of the issue is that Baltimore County needs two things to secure for itself a sustainable future: alternative energy that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels AND productive farmland to feed an ever-growing population. Baltimore County is well positioned to have both. There is abundant land that could be enhanced with solar arrays (parking lots, residential rooftops, and the rooftops of commercial and industrial structures) as well as contaminated lands, closed landfills, and remnant pieces on commercial sites.

However, our best farmland should not be the FIRST choice for these facilities. While solar can be located in a wide variety of places, crops can only be grown on land with good soils and the right climate. Baltimore County is blessed with the best soil and the best climate, and much planning and investment has gone into preserving the Agriculture Priority Areas due to their importance and high quality.

Currently, the industrial solar industry is eyeing cheap Baltimore County agricultural land to meet state legislation targets because several of the other counties within BGE’s six-jurisdiction service area either prohibit the large industrial solar facilities in agricultural zones or have enacted a moratorium while they study the best way forward.  Fourteen applications have been submitted in Baltimore County for permission to construct solar facilities on land zoned for farming and resource conservation. Each proposed project can produce up to 2 megawatts (MW) of electricity and cover acres of land currently used by farmers to grow food with thousands of solar panels. There is realistic concern that future laws will encourage the expansion of industrial solar facilities which will result in larger fields of solar panels over land best suited to growing food.

We need to act now to correct the mistake in current County legislation that takes the green out of Baltimore County solar energy plans.

Solar energy is an important source of clean energy.  We must encourage the development of solar and other forms of renewable energy in Baltimore County.  Directing industrial solar facilities to sites that are already disturbed (e.g. brownfields, landfills, rooftops of industrial and office buildings and parking lots) increases Baltimore County’s land use efficiency, accelerates progress in use of renewable energy and reinforces our substantial investment in green space preservation, estimated to exceed $200 million.

The work session for this bill will be this coming Tuesday, January 15th at 2pm in Council Chambers.

Councilman Kach encourages all interested parties to attend and testify. Let the Baltimore County Council know that you believe that further study on the best location for these facilities is desperately needed in order for Baltimore County to be a leader in solar power generation and agricultural production.