When the Frederick County Council passed a bill in May 2017 creating a zone to allow solar arrays, we had high hopes for a bright future generating solar power here.

But it has not come to pass.

When the council recently rejected a proposal for a $17.2 million solar energy site about 150 acres of agricultural land because it did not comply with the earlier ordinance, it became clear that the law needed to change.

The 2017 ordinance provides for a “floating zone” where solar arrays will be allowed. The restrictions include:

  • The project cannot exceed 10 percent of the farm’s tillable acreage, or 75 acres.
  • It cannot sit on prime farm soils.
  • It cannot be in a priority preservation area or rural legacy area.
  • It cannot be contiguous to growth areas identified in the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

At the time of the approval, we praised the bill as a first step toward a cleaner energy future for our community and for the country. But it is now clear that the law is too restrictive.

We therefore applaud council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer’s move to create a work group to begin updating and improving the zoning ordinance. She shows real vision in taking this step.

She has rightfully invited the Frederick County Farm Bureau as well as solar array companies to participate, and she should expand it to include scientists and engineers from the field of solar power study to participate as well.

The world of solar power is advancing by leaps and bounds, fueled by research and development dollars. It is the primary hope for a clean energy future, needed to address the most important challenge threatening us — man-made climate change. The widespread burning of fossil fuels to power our vehicles and to generate electricity must come to an end.

Yogi Goswami, director of the Clean Energy Research Center at the University of South Florida, recently wrote on the website Quora:

“Solar energy is such a vast energy resource that it can be used for any of our everyday needs, including electrical power, heating and cooling, water heating, industrial process heat, cooking, transportation, fuel production and even environmental clean-up.

“It comes to us as radiation which is pure energy (no mass associated with it), which is the highest form of energy and can be converted to many other forms for our everyday use.

“A tiny fraction of the solar energy that falls on the earth is sufficient to take care of all of the needs on the earth.”

The challenge is to capture and store the energy for the hours when the sun is not shining. And Goswami wrote that scientists are making giant strides.

So, for Frederick County, where we have a reasonable number of sunny days, solar power must be an important part of our future.

This puts pressure on local elected officials to move toward a set of local laws that will allow for reasonable, economically viable solar power arrays.

Agriculture has been and hopefully will remain an important sector of the Frederick County economy. We support county efforts to protect and encourage agriculture.

But solar power is an important part of our future, and local leaders like Keegan-Ayer must be supported in their efforts to make certain that the county is welcoming for this nascent industry.

Agriculture and solar companies can co-exist in Frederick County. Now we need to set the terms of this future.

(16) comments

wran

California is going solar rapidly. It is producing so much electricity from solar that the state has excess electricity that it can't even sell. That is good for its environment, etc. At the same time electricity rates have soared and electricity costs have almost doubled in the past few years. CA's electricity costs are 40 % higher than the national average. This has greatly economically penalized the poorer people in CA. And, CA has 30 % of all the welfare recipients in the US. I read an article a man wrote wondering why there were so many people, mostly latinos, in a Walmart store one day last summer when the temperature was 107 degrees. He asked one of them why they were there and the answer was they came there to get cool. We can't afford electricity.

DickD

If you think California is installing a lot of solar, go to Hawaii, where the kilowatt hour cost was $.35 a few years ago. The grid has not allowed hook ups for sometime, because they have exceeded their mandated requirement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Hawaii The energy sector in Hawaii has rapidly adopted solar power due to the high costs of electricity, and good solar resources, and has one of the highest per capita rates of solar power in the United States. Hawaii's imported energy costs, mostly for imported petroleum and coal, are three times higher, and will soon be close to four times higher than the mainland, so Hawaii has motivation to become one of the highest users of solar energy. Hawaii was the first state in the United States to reach grid parity for photovoltaics. Its tropical location provides abundant sun energy.Much of Hawaii's solar capacity is distributed solar panels on individual homes and businesses. Hawaii's grid has had to deal with this unique situation by developing new technology for balancing the energy flows in areas with large amounts of solar power. In 2017 distributed solar produced 913GWh which was 36% of all renewable energy produced in the state and about 9% of electricity sales. Utility-scale solar produced 212GWh, just over 1% of sales.  In December 2016, Hawaii had 674MW of installed distributed solar capacity. The largest utility-scale solar farm in Hawaii is the 27.6MW EE Waianae Solar Project which opened in January 2017.

gary4books

Hawaii should go for geothermal energy. It may be less expensive than solar for many.

jerseygrl42

solar, wind and H2 are the future for our energy needs and progress is being made in all three of them.....storage is a key factor and until that becomes a reality , natural gas will be the backup fuel for those times when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining

DickD

Batteries are getting very good Jersey. . Tesla makes 50% of them for electric cars and they can be used for off grid storage too.

glenkrc

Dick - The last couple of times we discussed this subject, I left you some helpful links in a parting post. It appears you didn't see them. So, for now the 3rd time, let me suggest you (and others and certainly the FNP staff) watch this presentation by a longtime dedicated environmentalist on why he has come to believe that "renewables" will not save us:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-yALPEpV4w

DickD

I know you believe that Glen, I don't.

DickD

The part I disagree with is the need for a study committee for bad legislation passed by the Council. They just need to recognize their mistake and quit trying to find someone else to blame it on.

gary4books

Solar energy may not be a new technology, but the current way to collect it does rely on new technology and materials. It is not the last word on the collection method or even how we use land for solar energy. Other locations use land for both solar energy and crops. I doubt that a corn field would work, or even soy beans would be easy to grow. But with the trend to local food, vegetable crops may be easy to grow under solar collectors and some might benefit from the shade. We need to look at the latest developments and fit our laws to meet our needs. Then we have a sustainable environment.

DickD

[thumbup]

bosco

I'd rather live down wind from a solar farm than a pig farm.

gary4books

bos - [beam]

DickD

Me too, Bosco. [thumbup]

KMRD1

Hey let’s build houses on the Whitmore Farm in Walkersville since solar panels were denied. Let’s see how the neighbors handle that when the farm is sold to developers

elmerchismo1

One project doesn't meet the standards so the standards have to be changed? How about changing the scope or location of the project?

DickD

How about making realistic stadards.

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