Community Issues - Solar Power

Solar Power

List of solar arrays installed and applied for.

In the battle against global warming, solar power provides one of the best tools, 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. Around Kingsville, one sees more and more roof-mounted systems. We now have one medium-sized ground-mounted array installed by SGC Power at the end of Pfeffers Rd adjacent to I-95, installed on land that George Majchrzak purchased back in 2011, maybe with this intention. According to information at the required zoning hearing, it produces 2.1 MegaWatts and takes up about 6 acres. SGC Power had previously installed a system at Glen Meadows Retirement community on Glen Arm Rd (apparently without the need for a hearing) that also takes up about 4.4 acres.

On August 29, 2016, it was announced by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz that the county will install 4 systems around the County with a total of 21 MegaWatts of capacity. One will be on "unused portions" of Mt Vista Park. It is unclear whether County officials consulted with the community before announcing these plans. It appears not.

See also Baltimore Sun article.

The following plans for Mt. Vista Park have been shared with the community, after the decision was made (click on image for larger image).

It appears that this whole contract was cancelled when Tesla bought Solar City. Stay tuned!

This seems to be just a map with some initial thoughts. It shows the possible areas for fields, and several areas for panels, noting that there would be a 50' setback from the fields.

This shows two specific areas of panels of 4.8 acres and 3.5 acres for a total of 2.4 MegaWatts.

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 At the same time, resolution 101-16 to ask the Planning Board to study needed legislation was withdrawn.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). 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.
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.

List of solar arrays installed and applied for.

To view on Baltimore County MyNeighborhood

This list of potential sites has been produced as a kml files that you can display on any common mapping application. The most useful is Baltimore County's MyNeighborhood application, as it then provides direct access to 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:
This adds my 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. However, because of some error in the County website, the pulldown to add and remove other layers does not always work correctly after you have added anything via the "Add data" as described above. So you should add/remove desired layers (such as conserved land, scenic roads) before doing step 2-4 above.

To view on GoogleEarth

Another way to see the locations against an aerial photo, and other items, is to use GoogleEarth. Do the following:

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

Return to Issues Page

Updated 29 May 2018