Biggs Foard Solar

The stubble of harvested corn stands in a farm field on Biggs Ford Road — the site of a planned solar array — near Walkersville Thursday afternoon. While the project has been in the works for years, an ultimate decision on whether it can be constructed is not expected soon.

Months ago, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) denied an appeal from Frederick County to prevent a solar array being built on roughly 100 acres of prime farmland off Biggs Ford Road near Walkersville.

Despite that ruling, an ultimate decision on whether the array can be constructed is not expected soon.

Last August, Public Utility Law Judge Ryan McLean ruled the array could be built and that a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) should be issued to Biggs Ford Solar LLC. He said the state’s goals of renewable energy outweigh the project’s inconsistency with local zoning laws.

The project has been in the Public Service Commission timeline for years. Wendy Kearney, a senior assistant county attorney, appealed that decision to the Public Service Commission, but its four members sided with McLean in a late November decision that the array can be built.

In their denial of Frederick County’s appeal, they stated the Maryland General Assembly and Court of Appeals has determined that they — the administrative agency regulates public utilities statewide — have the authority to determine where solar arrays are built.

The General Assembly has also determined renewable energy sources like solar arrays are of public benefit.

“The County provides no compelling reason why the Commission should ignore this statewide statement of public policy when evaluating the public convenience and necessity of a proposed renewable energy facility,” the PSC’s decision reads in part.

Local officials, however, are concerned that allowing the solar array preempts local zoning authority, especially when looking at areas of prime farmland.

Kearney said an appeal of the PSC’s decision was filed by the county in the Baltimore Circuit Court in December, which court records confirm.

She wrote in an email earlier this week the county supports renewable energy projects but that the Public Service Commission acted outside its authority with regard to the Biggs Ford application.

That argument stems back to a case in Washington County—Board of County Commissioners of Washington County, Maryland v. Perennial Solar, LLC—where the Court of Appeals ruled the Public Service Commission has ultimate authority on where to allow solar arrays.

Kearney said even with this ruling, there are other aspects to consider regarding the Biggs Ford proposal.

“The County contends simply that the statutory criteria governing the issuance of a CPCN were not properly applied to the application, and in certain areas the analysis exceeded the scope of the agency’s authority,” Kearney wrote in an email. “The applicant always has the burden of proof — the statement that the County did not provide a ‘compelling reason’ — implies that the County had some burden of proof which it did not.”

Because of scheduling, Kearney said she did not anticipate a hearing in front of the Circuit Court of Baltimore city occurring soon.

“It will be several months, and probably the fall/winter before a decision is made by the Court,” she wrote.

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.

(12) comments

Burgessdr

County Commissioners are so two faced. They push for renewal energy, but when a relatively small solar farm comes along, they oppose it. Fakers. They have no realistic plan, nor will they ever have one. Hot air.

shiftless88

What is the problem? Why is FC pushing back? Is it because they don't want the solar farm? Don't want it there? Or are making a statement about process? I wish they would clear this up.

phydeaux994

A picture of a corn maze for old people. Calm down, I’m old.

bpswp

I am confused. I thought FC was about being kind to our environment and decreasing carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere. Why then is FC opposed to a solar farm?

gary4books

bpswp - Why indeed? Esthetics? What am I missing?

MD1756

Confused? Here's a question for you.

Q: When is a politician not two-faced?

A: When one of them has been lifted.

Reader1954

thats right 467 - money has to go in the right pocket to get things

gary4books

Thanks to Governor Hogan we are just now seeing a completion of the Purple Line in the DC Metro area. One of my first letters to the Washington Post was in 1988 asking for them to finish that project. Local people with money paid lawyers to delay it and I expect the lawyers were very well paid. But the Purple Line moved along since people will need it. It will urn a map of spokes on a wheel into a easier to manage wheel configuration. Hogan has done good. But I really would discourage a legal fight that last so long here. Other than making some lawyers wealthy, little will be accomplished. What do they want? I just do not see the gains.

MD1756

The purple line is a questionable expenditure of public money and that was before the pandemic. It wasn't expected to take much if any traffic off of the beltway. Now I think it is a worse investment and that the money would be better spent elsewhere. The solar farm involves no public money and should go ahead. After all if the county was that worried about farmland, they wouldn't approve those developments where people now live and complain about having their view spoiled.

bnick467

Frederick County certainly doesn't have a problem when prime farm land is sold to developers and turned into housing developments with gaudy, 9,000 sq. ft. McMansions, or "luxury townhomes" that place undue burdens on the infrastructure, but have a problem with a commodity that will benefit us all. I guess the solar company doesn't bribe, er, I mean, CONTRIBUTE to legislators as much as housing developers do.

Greg F

Exactly. This needs to go through!

MD1756

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