Exploring the Benefits of Solar Farms in Maryland
Table of Contents
Overview of Solar Farms in Maryland
In recent years, Maryland has significantly increased its solar energy capacity. This growth is driven by the state’s commitment to meet its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which aims to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2030. Most of this capacity is expected to come from solar power, as the state has already quadrupled its solar capacity from 258 megawatts to 1,000 megawatts in the last few years.
A variety of solar farm projects are being developed in Maryland. One notable example is a 175MW solar farm planned by CPV, which will cover approximately 1,100 acres. This solar farm will generate enough power for nearly 30,000 average Maryland homes and contribute to meeting the state’s 2030 renewable energy goal.
In addition to large-scale solar farms, Maryland also supports smaller on-farm solar projects. Many local farmers have invested in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to reduce energy costs and utilize a free fuel resource. These smaller-scalesolar energy systems both benefit individual farms and contribute to the state’s overall growth of solar energy capacity.
Innovative approaches to solar farm development are also being implemented in Maryland. For instance, some projects use agrovoltaic solar panels installed six feet off the ground on platforms, allowing farming activities to continue under the panels. This approach helps efficiently use the available land while minimizing the disruption to agricultural operations.
The Maryland Energy Administration significantly supports solar energy by offering various programs and incentives for residential, commercial, and community solar projects. These initiatives have contributed to the rapid increase in solar capacity and further solidified Maryland’s commitment to clean, renewable energy.
Benefits of Solar Farms
Solar farms in Maryland contribute significantly to reducing the state’s carbon footprint and addressing climate change. By generating clean energy from the sun, these farms help decrease greenhouse gas emissions and the reliance on fossil fuels. This results in lower air pollution levels and a healthier environment for the residents of Maryland.
Some key environmental benefits include:
- Mitigating climate change: By generating electricity without releasing harmful greenhouse gases, solar energy helps combat global warming.
- Preserving water resources: Unlike conventional power plants, solar farms use minimal water in the energy generation process.
Besides the environmental benefits, solar farms have significant economic advantages for Maryland’s communities, counties and residents. Solar power creates jobs, stimulates economic development, and generates tax revenue for local governments.
Here are some of the key economic benefits:
- Job creation: The solar industry in Maryland is responsible for producing thousands of jobs in installation, maintenance, and other related fields.
- Stimulating local economies: Large-scale solar projects like the 175MW Backbone Solar Farm bring investment and business opportunities to surrounding communities.
- Tax revenue: Solar farm projects generate tax revenue for local governments, which can be used to improve public services and infrastructure.
Solar farms in Maryland offer environmental and economic advantages, making them an essential component of the state’s clean energy goals. By investing in solar farms, Maryland continues to work towards a more sustainable and prosperous future for its residents.
Solar Farms and Community Integration
Community Solar Programs
In Maryland, various initiatives support the growth and availability of community solar and clean energy projects. Community solar projects allow residents to share the benefits of solar power even if they cannot or prefer not to install solar panels on their property. These projects enable numerous people, from homeowners to renters, to participate in the transition to renewable energy.
- Projects in Maryland: Several community solar farms are being built throughout Maryland, including a 24 MW community portfolio benefiting over 5,000 Maryland households.
- Discounts for Participants: Residents who subscribe to solar energy from a community solar farm can save 10-25% off their energy bill, benefiting local communities.
Impact on Homeowners and Renters
The expansion of Maryland community solar programs enables homeowners and renters to access clean, renewable energy. These initiatives aim to provide an inclusive, accessible solution to joining the renewable energy movement, regardless of whether an individual owns or rents a property.
- Homeowners: Community solar farms offer a viable alternative for homeowners who are unable or unwilling to install solar panels on their property. They can subscribe to clean energy without the need for intrusive infrastructure.
- Renters: Renters often need help installing solar panels, such as needing more property ownership or landlord approval. Community solar programs allow renters to participate in clean energy efforts without requiring permission from their landlords.
Integrating solar farms in Maryland promotes shared renewable energy benefits for residents and enhances the local environment. As solar infrastructure continues to develop, participation in community solar programs supports Maryland’s goal of achieving 50% energy from renewables by 2030.
Regulatory and Developmental Framework
State Policies and Incentives
Maryland has a notable Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in place, which requires 50% of the state’s overall electricity generation sales to come from renewable energy resources by 2030, including a 14.5% solar carve-out by 20281. To support the development of these renewable energy resources, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) plays a critical role in approving projects and ensuring adherence to state standards.
The Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) is a permitting document issued by the PSC that developers must obtain to build utility-scale solar facilities. This enables the PSC to ensure the proposed sites align with Maryland’s renewable energy goals and minimize any negative impacts on agricultural lands or ecologically significant areas.
Additionally, Governor Hogan established the Renewable Energy Development and Siting (REDS) Task Force in 2019. The main purpose of this task force is to evaluate the progress of renewable energy projects in the state, examining the successes and challenges faced by solar farm developers and stakeholders.
Planning and Zoning for Solar Farm Deployment
For solar farm deployment, local governments can refer to the Solar Facility Siting Guidance provided by the Maryland Department of Planning. The guidance offers strategies to avoid adverse impacts on agricultural lands and ecologically significant areas while promoting using developed lands, such as brownfields, for solar farm installations.
Utility-scale solar development has increased in recent years, resulting in some resistance within local communities. These concerns stem primarily from the perception that solar farms consume much farmland. However, Maryland’s zoning ordinances and moratoriums help guide developers to prioritize using developed lands while respecting the needs and expectations of local communities.
The Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) further addresses the challenge of balancing solar development with agriculture. This act outlines regulatory categories for important farmland, including prime farmland, unique farmland, additional farmland of statewide importance, and additional farmland of local importance.
Overall, the regulatory and developmental framework set forth by the Maryland state government aims to pave the way for responsible growth in the solar farm industry. By establishing clear policies, incentives, and guidelines, solar farm development can progress harmoniously with other land uses, ultimately contributing to the state’s renewable energy targets.
Key Solar Farm Projects in Maryland
CPV Backbone Solar Farm
Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) plans to build and operate a 175MW AC solar farm in Maryland. The CPV Backbone Solar Farm project will help Maryland achieve 50% renewable generation by 2030. The solar facility will have extensive solar panels, contributing significantly to the state’s clean energy initiatives.
Located in Garrett County, the Backbone Solar Farm is part of CPV’s commitment to promoting sustainable energy solutions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Leveraging solar energy in this region will positively impact the local environment and economy, paving the way for future green projects.
Redevelopment of Brownfields
Another noteworthy initiative is the redevelopment of brownfields into solar farms. Brownfields are former industrial or commercial sites, such as coal mines, with potential for reuse and redevelopment. In Maryland, one such example is converting the Vindex/Arch Coal mining sites into solar farms.
- The former coal mine in Garrett County: Recently, it was announced that a former coal mine in Garrett County would become Maryland’s largest solar farm, showcasing the potential for repurposing brownfields into clean energy sites. The project is expected to be completed in late 2024.
- Key benefits of redeveloping brownfields: Utilizing these former industrial spaces not only helps reduce the need for greenfield development but also creates opportunities for environmental remediation and local job creation.
The CPV Backbone Solar Farm and redeveloping brownfields are crucial projects that will significantly contribute to Maryland’s clean energy future. These initiatives demonstrate the state’s commitment to renewable energy and present new sustainable growth and development opportunities.
Questions and Answers on Solar Farm Participation
Q: Who can participate in Maryland solar farms? A: Both homeowners and renters can participate in Maryland Community Solar projects, benefiting from clean and renewable energy. It offers a chance to support local solar farms for those who cannot or prefer not to install solar panels on their property.
Q: How do I join a solar farm in Maryland? A: To join a solar farm, subscribe to a community solar project near your residence or business. Once you find a suitable project, follow the subscription process by providing the required information and completing the necessary steps.
Q: Will I save money by joining a solar farm? A: When you sign up for a local community solar farm, you can save 5-10% on your electric bill and use 100% clean energy to power your home or business.
Q: How does the billing system work for solar farm participants? A: As a solar farm subscriber, you will receive credits on your electric bill. These credits are calculated based on the solar energy produced by the community solar project. The credits help offset your electricity costs and result in savings on your electric bill.
Q: Can I still participate in a solar farm if I move to Maryland? A: If you move within the same utility service territory, your subscription to the community solar project can be transferred to your new address. However, you may move to a different utility service territory outside Maryland. In that case, you might need to cancel your subscription or transfer it to another eligible participant.
Participating in a solar farm in Maryland offers a great opportunity for homeowners and renters to support clean and renewable energy while saving money on their electric bills. By subscribing to a community solar project, they can benefit from solar energy without installing solar panels on their property.