Community Issues - Solar Power

Solar Power

List of solar arrays installed or applied for.

In the battle against global warming, solar power provides one of the best ways of mitigating the damage, since it essentially directly captures the heat of the sun and turns it into electricity. However, it requires large solar arrays, whether on roofs or in open fields.

For those following this issue, Bill 68-16 was introduced to place a "temporary" moratorium (until 30 Apr 2017) on installation of "solar farms" in RC zones, but not applicable to those installed as a part of a government sponsored project for government use. It was passed by unanimous vote on October 17, with an amendment added to require that such projects on public land have sufficient landscaping, and the end of the moratorium was changed to Feb 18, 2017. At the same time, resolution 101-16 to ask the Planning Board to study needed legislation was withdrawn. The County Exec vetoed the bill, citing the problems that it would create for the contract that they had already signed (without citizen input) for 4 installations around the County. The Democratic-controlled Council did not attempt to override the veto. A new Bill 95-16 was introduced to specify restrictions, but, once again, it would have no impact on any government-sponsored installation. It was withdrawn and reintroduced as Bill 9-17 which was again withdrawn. Bill 13-17 then was introduced, but failed on a party-line vote.

Later, Council members Almond and Kach introduced Bills 37-17 and 38-17, respectively. At the July 3, 2017 meeting, significant amendments were introduced by Marks and Kach but defeated along party line votes. Bill 37-17 then passed and Bill 38-17 was "tabled" (that means, defeated).

The surviving bill allows solar facilities:

  • With a Special Exception
  • In RC2, RC3, RC4, RC5, RC6, RC8, BL, BM, MR, MLR, MH
  • Not in designated conservancy area in RC4 or RC6
  • Setback 50 ft from tract boundary
  • Must be landscape buffer so not visible from adjacent residentially-used property or street
  • Limited to producing 2 MW (note, the County's 4 projects, not subject to this bill, would total 21 MW.)
  • Not on land that is in preservation or in Baltimore County historic district or Landmarks list, or forest conservation easement
  • Limited to 10 per District, which will obviously be increased when the limit is reached, (but see note 1 below)
  • Does not apply to residential or agricultural use, rooftop, on government-owned land, or if at least 2/3 of the power is used on the farm
  • Must provide security bond (amount to be determined by the administrative officer!) for repair or removal
  • Must be removed within 150 days after ceasing to be used, after which the county may remove it (but says that Code Enforcement may issue a citation after 12 months of not being used, which is the process by which the county begins proceedings to remove it.) See Note 2.
  • Effective July 17, 2017, but retroactive to any petition filed after Oct 18, 2016 (2 were filed on Oct 17)
Note 1: The County has interpreted this limit of 10 to apply only to those filed after the retroactive date, that is, the 4 in the 3rd District from before that date do not count towards the allowable 10. This is not consistent with other such "retroactive" provisions in the Code.
Note 2: This provision essentially means that, when a citizen believes that a solar field is no longer being used (how would one even determine that?) they file a complaint, after which Code Enforcement would have to watch it for 1 full year before issuing a correction notice, probably then giving another 150 days for its removal, after which a citation would be issued and a hearing scheduled. The hearing would then most likely grant a sufficient time for compliance (months?), after which another hearing would grant the county the authority to actually hire a contractor to remove it, who would take several more months at best. The 150 days quoted in the Bill is meaningless, based on previous experience with how the process actually works. It will certainly take at least 2 years.

The Planning Board has since submitted the following recommendations:

  • Solar facilities should not be permitted on prime and productive soils
  • Solar facilities should be directed into business and manufacturing zones, brownfields, rooftops and parking lots where financially feasible
  • Further in-depth study of how other similar jurisdictions have responded to the use should be considered in a review of the current law
  • The feasibility of establishing locational criteria to determine appropriate siting of solar facilities should be investigated
  • Solar facilities should not be detrimental to scenic views or routes
  • Participation in future studies should be broadened to include stakeholders from each Councilmanic District

On Dec 17, 2018, Bill 102-18 was introduced to impose a 9-month moratorium on solar facilities, which would halt all processiong and approvals of any petition for special exception. This is to allows time for the Planning Board to provide recommendations on revisions to the current law.

List of solar arrays installed or applied for.

To view on Baltimore County MyNeighborhood

This list of potential sites has been produced as kml files that you can display on many common mapping applications. The most useful is Baltimore County's MyNeighborhood application, as it then provides direct viewing of other layers such as preserved land, scenic routes, etc. Just do the following:

  1. Open the county's MyNeighborhood site.
  2. Click on the "Add data" icon (clipboard).
  3. Select "URL" them select type "A KML file"
  4. Copy and paste the following link into the URL field:   https://kingsville-md.us/issues/solar/SolarArrays-agricultural.kml
    or, for many existing commercial roof-top systems:    https://kingsville-md.us/issues/solar/SolarArrays-commercial.kml
This adds this kml data to the map. You can then use the other features of the web site to display conservation easements, scenic roads, Byways, etc. If you have any difficulties, let me know and I'll try to talk you through it. There are some tricks.

One of the important functions here: Using the "Layer list" function (icon of stack of layers) add the "Zoning History Cases" layer. Then, when you click on a property for a solar array case, you can call up the details about that zoning case. Do the same with the "Properties" and "Zoning" layers.

To view on GoogleEarth

Another way to see the locations against an aerial photo, and other items, is to use GoogleEarth. This also gives the opportunity to view the property from a street-level perspective. Do the following:

  1. Download and save the KML files by clicking on these links:
  2. Open GoogleEarth on your computer (you must have first installed it)
  3. In GoogleEarth, open the KML file that you saved.

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Updated 5 Jan 2019