Note: Planning’s Solar Facility Siting Guidance webpage currently focuses mainly on utility-scale solar facility siting issues. Future updates will include information on community-scale and residential-scale solar facility siting issues.
From a local government perspective, utility-scale solar facilities (those that are larger than two megawatts) are a relatively new land use. Solar facilities help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, but also have the potential to consume significant amounts of farmland and forest land. The Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting Interim Report (December 2019) estimates that 29,276 acres, including 26,348 acres of farmland, could be consumed between 2020 and 2030 by utility-scale solar facilities.
According to the University of Maryland College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, seven acres are required, on average, to produce a megawatt of electricity. Installing solar power facilities in rural areas have the potential to consume significant amounts of farmland.
Planning’s Solar Facility Siting Guidance webpage implements the Task Force’s recommendations to provide guidance to local governments on strategies to minimize impacts of utility-scale solar facilities on agricultural lands and ecologically important areas, and to help facilitate the siting of solar facilities on developed lands and brownfields. In developing strategies for location and other standards and requirements for these facilities, local governments must strive to balance multiple community needs, including environmental, viewshed, agricultural, cultural, and land preservation goals, when establishing preferred locations and other standards and requirements for utility-scale solar facilities. Local governments must also work within the statutory framework that establishes that only the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), not local government applying local land use and zoning ordinances, has the authority to approve generation facilities1.
Planning’s Solar Facility Siting Guidance webpage provides information and tools to facilitate the development and adjustment of local land use plans and recommendations with respect to solar facility siting to achieve local goals and objectives, including:
By providing this information, local governments seeking to develop or modify local solar facility siting standards can save time and ensure greater success in meeting local goals.
If you would like to be notified of changes to Planning’s solar facility siting guidance webpage over time, please email email@example.com.
State and local policies support the preservation of large contiguous areas of farms and forests
Local governments must consider both the beneficial and harmful impacts of utility-scale solar facilities when establishing siting goals and objectives:
1 See Board of County Commissioners of Washington County v. Perennial Solar, LLC, 446 Md. 610 (2019) (Md. Code Ann., Public Utility § 7-207, which grants the PSC with general regulatory authority over electric generating stations, including solar energy generating systems, preempts local zoning authority with respect to the location and construction of electric generating systems). Within this statutory framework, affected local governments are: (1) provided notice of all applications for Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for new facilities; (2) given an opportunity to provide comment and recommendations to the PSC on a pending CPCN application; and (3) afforded the opportunity to participate fully in the required public hearing on a proposed facility. As such, a local government’s perspective on a facility CPCN application—including the local land use plans and ordinances—will be a factor considered by the PSC in approving facility location.
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