solar_array_site

A solar array is approved to be built on 100 acres of farmland off Biggs Ford Road near Walkersville.

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.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(27) comments

shiftless88

C'mon, Jan. Go solar! Drop the appeal. Let them build.

KellyAlzan

Just like the MOCO transplates from Deerfield that opposed the Rutters. Rutters, the replacement of a former gas station. LOL

KellyAlzan

Prime location for an industrial park complete with a mulch processing facility.

Yeah. I’d rather have the solar panels. Less dust.....

KellyAlzan

Let’s say no to solar panels so that John Fitzgerald and put a huge car dealership there, complete with the LED parking lot lights

gary4books

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jack_Fitzgerald_Auto_Dealer.jpg

KellyAlzan

Sorry Gary, link not clickable.

gary4books

Just a note that I know him as "Jack" and we were friends on Facebook.

C.D.Reid

My question is what makes this farm land so much more worthy of preserving than the land in Creagerstown where a solar farm was built a few years ago? I believe that might be worth bringing up by the owner of the Walkersville property.

FrederickFan

This land has prime soils and is in a designated priority preservation area. The Creagerstown property is not in a priority preservation area. The county is trying to protect blocks of prime farmland to keep agriculture viable in the county. This property is in an area designated long-term for agriculture and doesn't have water and sewer. No car dealership, industrial park or housing development is allowed here and water and sewer doesn't exist.

MD1756

So maybe the homes shouldn't exit and be torn down and reverted to farmland. Those home owners seem to find water for ther pools and houses. Land can also be rezoned/redesignated as developers have done all the time. The county has already allowed farmers to subdivide their land show their children can build on it and live there for a short time before selling the land. The next thing you know isthat when the children/grandchildren want money, they'll sell that subdivided land to developers to further subdivide the land. On and on it goes as long as the population continues to grow. Use the land for solar rather than more homes.

TomWheatley

We also have land available at the landfill, industrial zoned land at the old EastAlco, etc. Is there any land left in the County less than prime farmland soil to put panels on?

timberman

I rather see a field of solar panels than a field of houses. The solar panels can be removed at the end of their useful life and the land returned to farm use. Housing development will most likely never be removed and solar doesn’t add to the already congested roads

Dwasserba

The land could also still be used for agriculture. It is possible to plant beneath and around solar panels.

C.D.Reid

Solar panels that can be removed at the end of their useful life can always be replaced with new panels, can they not? And, with the solar farm infrastructure already in place, that would seem a cheaper way to perpetuate that use of the land.

gabrielshorn2013

"...saying it would be an eyesore and that the county’s prime farmland needs to be preserved."

To those NIMBYs complaining about their "spoiled view", nobody owes you a view of THEIR property. You want a view of unspoiled pastoral bliss? Get together with your like-minded friends and buy the property at the going rate. Problem solved. The Ag issue is just a farce. Ag can easily and verifiably coexist with solar. Google it.

Dwasserba

[thumbup]gabriel I should read ahead....

gary4books

Beauty lies more in the mind than the scene, or so say many. When Senator Ted Kennedy opposed windmills, he claimed they were ugly. Likely the oil companies also influenced him. We are now in a stage where wind and solar energy is less expensive than oil and relict energy. Esthetics are always an easy way to dismiss new devices. Cell phone towers, for one example. If it were not for a Federal law, my community could not have smaller antennas for satellite television. Esthetics rules.

Personally a field of gray squares is not a problem for me. A coal fired power plant would be more of a problem. And many locations have the solar collectors and use the land for vegetable and fruit crops. It can work for both food and power, if we want.

C.D.Reid

Does anyone want to farm that property even if a solar farm is built? One problem facing farmers today is a lack of desire by their children to take over the family farm. Fields can be rented out, but that can also cause all new problems.

LeonardKeepers

it looks like this project has boiled down to a thing called money.the elected officials opposing the project and they got over ruled,nothing but money.solar arrays also cause radio frequency interference.

KellyAlzan

No one does radio anymore, so......

gary4books

Sorry Kelly, a Cell Phone is also a radio.

MD1756

Those issues can and should be addressed with proper equipment and permitting

MD1756

Just goes to show how you can't trust politicians. They recognize a "Climate Crisis" and then work to ignore it through am appeal filed by a county attorney.

"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."

Apparently preserving irresponsibility and stupidity are higher priorities than protecting human health and the environment.

rogy

Easy to feel that way when it’s not in your backyard I suppose. Solar arrays aren’t pretty— certainly not as scenic as fields of green. Unfortunately economic conditions make harvesting sunlight and/or providing land for more sprawl better alternatives to solvency than growing food but that’s the hand that farmers are dealt these days.

KellyAlzan

In this countey fields of green are a thing of the past. Perfect location for a Mercedes Benz dealership

MD1756

Rogy, I have a 12.3 kW solar system on my house. To me (as an engineer), a view a solar farm is better than looking at another housing development. To me seeing it on my roof also means money. Those who are complaining are living on former farmland. Maybe they should be forced off their former farmland so that the land can be farmed again? I believe these people complaining are being self centered and irresponsible. I wonder how many have added to the climate change problem versus doing something about by adjusting their lifestyles. Based on satellite imagery from 8/2018 it doesn't look like any of the nearby homes have solar, but a decent number do have swimming pools. Based on zillow, the homes in those neighborhoods indicate the people in those developments are not poor. Maybe they'd rather see the solar farm be put up in an EJ community? What would they say if the farmer switched from crops to large chicken growing operations (aka factory farm) where the emissions can make one sick?

gary4books

How about a "feed lot?" With lots of beeves.

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