The years-long case involving a proposed solar array near Walkersville has taken yet another twist, as Frederick County has appealed the Maryland Public Service Commission’s decision to allow the array.
According to court records, Wendy Kearney, a senior assistant county attorney, filed a notice of appeal in response to the decision by Public Utility Law Judge Ryan McLean. McLean ruled in late August that a certificate of public convenience and necessity should be issued to Biggs Ford Solar LLC, to construct the array on roughly 100 acres of farmland on Biggs Ford Road.
The case has been on the Public Service Commission (PSC) docket for years. That administrative agency regulates public utilities statewide.
Kearney said in an email she and colleagues are working on filing a memorandum of appeal for the docket, which is required no later than 10 days after the notice of appeal.
According to the Code of Maryland Regulations, that appeal must contain a short summary of the case and the county’s position on why the certificate should not be issued, along with the county’s overall argument, referencing any record in the case document and relevant case law.
Biggs Ford Solar LLC would then have 20 days to file a response, said Tori Leonard, communications director of the PSC.
“Although the Commission could order any further proceedings it deems necessary, typically, there are no additional hearings; the Commission will review the record in the case and make a decision (there is no specified timeline for doing so),” Leonard wrote in an email.
The proposed solar array involves two issues: the state’s need to achieve its renewable energy goals versus allowing county and municipal governments to exercise their authority in local zoning and land use matters. Both the County Council and county’s Planning Commission voted against rezoning the land to allow the array.
Many residents who live near the array and local elected leaders have opposed it at multiple hearings throughout the process, saying it would be an eyesore and that the county’s prime farmland needs to be preserved.
Those who support it argue the array would help meet the state’s renewable energy goals, and that it would be better than additional houses, which would increase traffic in the area and cause other infrastructure issues.
The General Assembly passed the Clean Energy Jobs Act last year, which required the state to hit a target of 50 percent of its energy use being from renewable sources. Gov. Larry Hogan allowed the bill to become law without his signature.
It’s unclear when a final decision will come in the Biggs Ford solar case, but it’s likely not soon. Kearney and Leonard said the case can be reheard by the five-member commission — led by Chairman Jason Stanek — or appealed to the Circuit Courts of Frederick County or Baltimore city, and then the Court of Special Appeals.