Bal­ti­more County tem­po­rar­ily halts large so­lar fields on farms

Four-month mora­to­rium to pro­vide time for study

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Pamela Wood pwood@balt­ twit­

The Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously Mon­day to halt large-scale so­lar power projects on farm­land for four months while the county con­sid­ers rules for them.

Coun­cil­man Wade Kach pushed the mea­sure in re­sponse to a grow­ing in­ter­est among farm­ers in leas­ing their fields to en­ergy com­pa­nies seek­ing to in­stall so­lar panel ar­rays.

Kach, a Cock­eysville Re­pub­li­can, said one prop­erty owner in his district al­ready has ap­plied for county ap­proval of a so­lar field, and oth­ers have ex­pressed in­ter­est.

Kach, whose district includes the ru­ral north­ern sec­tion of the county, said he’s con­cerned that in­ter­est in so­lar power is out­pac­ing the govern­ment’s abil­ity to reg­u­late it.

So­lar power com­pa­nies, lured by a state pol­icy that en­cour­ages re­new­able elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion and riding a larger in­dus­try boom, are in­creas­ingly leas­ing land from farm­ers for so­lar fields. Other Mary­land ju­ris­dic­tions have con­sid­ered rules, though the state’s Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, which reg­u­lates util­i­ties, has author­ity to over­ride lo­cal reg­u­la­tions in cases in­volv­ing large-scale power gen­er­a­tion projects.

Kach said the so­lar fields propsed in Bal­ti­more County so far aren’t large enough to trig­ger PSC in­volve­ment.

Kach wants the county to con­sider ques­tions such as what zon­ing des­ig­na­tions would be suit­able for so­lar fields, min­i­mum acreage, max­i­mum num­ber of panels, whether they should be al­lowed in preser­va­tion ar­eas, se­cu­rity, fenc­ing, buf­fers, light­ing and land­scap­ing.

He said it’s im­por­tant for the county to es­tab­lish ground rules.

Kach ini­tially wanted the county’s Plan­ning Board to de­velop so­lar farm guide­lines, but coun­cil mem­bers al­tered his bill so that they would do the re­search them­selves. The mea­sure passed 7-0.

The mora­to­rium does not af­fect home­own­ers who use so­lar panels to power their own homes.

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