Frederick County has decided to appeal a decision by the Maryland Public Service Commission that would allow a controversial solar array project to be built near Walkersville.

We support the widespread use of solar power to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and the resultant contribution to climate change. But we agree that the case should be appealed.

The county is right to insist that local officials should have a voice in land use decisions when they are protecting important policies such as the preservation of prime agricultural land.

This case has been under consideration for several years now by the Public Service Commission, the administrative agency that regulates public utilities statewide.

In August, Public Utility Law Judge Ryan McLean ruled that Biggs Ford Solar LLC, should be permitted to construct the array on roughly 100 acres of farmland on Biggs Ford Road. He ordered that a certificate of public convenience and necessity should be issued.

Now, Wendy Kearney, a senior assistant county attorney, has filed a notice of appeal with the commission. She said in an email to News-Post reporter Steve Bohnel that the county is working on the memorandum of appeal.

According to the Code of Maryland Regulations, the county must explain in that memo why the certificate should not be issued. 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 to our reporter.

The case presents two very important and conflicting issues. The General Assembly has set out renewable energy goals and the commission is trying to make decision to meet those goals.

At the same time, local governments should have wide authority in local zoning and land use matters. Both the Frederick County Council and the county’s Planning Commission voted against rezoning the land to allow the array.

Many residents who live near the site as well as local elected leaders have opposed the solar array. It has been criticized as an eyesore and on the grounds that the county’s prime farmland needs to be preserved.

The first complaint might be real, but it holds no merit. If our country is ever to address climate change, we need to find ways to generate energy without burning fossil fuels. Solar power is a vital, irreplaceable component of that program.

As in the case of power-generating windmills in open fields and along mountain ridges, we need to get used to seeing large solar arrays as necessary. Saving our planet requires us to adapt to and accept the new reality that our rural vistas are going to be changing.

However, finding the proper sites for both wind and solar generating stations is also important and, and the preservation of the best farmland is an important public policy goal.

Local officials must have a voice in the decision over siting, not in the sense of being NIMBYs (as in Not in My Backyard), but in the reasonable and rational consideration of the best land use to meet all of our public policy goals.

Ultimately, the state’s highest court should provide guidance on how that discussion should take place. The county’s appeal can give the courts the vehicle through which those rules of engagement can be established.

(20) comments

Tanstaafl

Many cities in Europe, esp. Germany have solar power supplying 50% of home needs, for years. The U.S. will never accomplish this as long as fossil fuels, gas and oil, control our economy. Solar cells, invented by satellite R&D in this country, is prime example of these policies.

jloo

We only have, like, six years left!!! Politicians dabble while the planet burns!!! Environmental justice NOW!!!!

Burgessdr

The preserving farmland argument is a bunch of hooey. Its 100% NIMBYism. There is something like 150,000-200,000 acres of farmland in Frederick County and using 100 acres is a drop in the bucket less than 0.1%. Hooey fooey pooey

MD1756

It's more like a loogie in the ocean when compared to all the farmland in America. Or maybe a quark in the planet when compared to the farmland and oceans across the world that produce food.

Burgessdr

The recent legislation by the county about goals for green energy is a bunch of hot air. The county in this case is opposed to a relatively small solar farm. Lots of yada yada talk by the county commissioners but where is the Beef? They think they can wave a magic wand and sprinkle fairy dust and presto it is going to happen.

MD1756

Turn the crop farm into a CAFO or AFO and see how the residents like it.

shiftless88

Keep in mind that, unlike housing built on farmland, solar arrays do not forever remove the land from agriculture. Some can take place together with the solar, and if there are future needs for farmland the solar arrays can be removed. Housing will never be removed.

JerryR

No farms, no food. And no, you can't grow crops under the arrays and the yields aren't significant enough to grow crops in between them!

gabrielshorn2013

Not true JerryR. Google "agrovoltaics USDA" and read the reports.

KellyAlzan

“Google” “google” “google”

That’s always your reply. “Google” “google” “google”.

From now on we’re calling you Doctor Google

gary4books

What a complement! Thanks, Kelly.

gabrielshorn2013

Thanks Plumbum! I like it! Folks should know that there is information out there, and where to find it. BTW, do you ever provide supporting information for any of your postings? Nope. Again, thanks for being a fan!

Greg F

Even I agree...google is out there and can be used before spouting things that whomever wrote didn't bother to check first, before posting. You can go look yourself, Kelly....it's free and easy...sure, it would be helpful to post a link, but who reads those anyway who doesn't agree with them?

MD1756

As you know, some people just like to exercise their right to remain ignorant of the facts (I paraphrased a Calvin and Hobbs comic strip).

gary4books

But they do that. And, yes, we can.

gabrielshorn2013

Many residents who live near the site as well as local elected leaders have opposed the solar array. It has been criticized as an eyesore and on the grounds that the county’s prime farmland needs to be preserved.

Again, to all those NIMBYs, nobody owes YOU a view of THEIR property. If you wish to look out over unobstructed pastoral bliss, get together with your like-minded friends and buy the property, and farm it yourselves. Problem solved. As for preserving prime agricultural land, and the belief that this solar array will take this land out of production, that is patently false. Ag and solar can easily and demonstrably co-exist.

https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/farmers-guide-going-solar

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/cultivating-coexistence-agriculture-and-solar-farms

https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-06-08/energy-and-food-together-under-solar-panels-crops-thrive

https://www.treehugger.com/agrivoltaics-solar-power-crops-bees-4863595

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/09/crops-under-solar-panels-can-be-a-win-win/

https://grist.org/food/cash-strapped-farms-are-growing-a-new-crop-solar-panels/

Greg F

Well done Gabe...

Reader1954

this is just like everyone wants a cell phone but no one wants the cell phone towers

gary4books

But the French built their Tower in Paris and some went to Holland to see the windmills. I rather like cell towers and think the 5G ones will be so small as that I never see them. But we will have a big one on 26 across from Walmart. That should be enough for me.

Greg F

I think the one on the east side of Hagerstown is funny, but at least an attempt to disguise. It was all covered in green fake pine tree type foliage and looks like a gigantic green pipe cleaner. The whole thing is with those who don't want this to pass is all the not-in-my-back-yard folks....who would just happily build their McMansion and not complain about the views they spoil for others of mountainsides cleared off for their use. Surely they cared nothing about the views they spoiled or soil that is no longer tillable where they all live now.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!