Read on for more best practices from Sierra Club, CBF, and other jurisdictions that are currently building community solar under conditional use.
Solar energy generation (in its current form) relies on flat sunny surfaces. Agriculture, since the practice began, has also relied on flat, sunny soil. Wise planners saw the potential conflict between these land uses long ago and began to find ways to balance the need for renewable energy and agriculture.
ZTA 20-01- that would allow 3 square miles of industrial solar in Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve on productive soils and provide scant protections for forests or water quality - is coming up for a vote at the County Council on 1/26.
This provision has not taken advantage of the best practices of experts or other area jurisdictions that are siting the very same community solar we are after on degraded lands and through conditional use, taking care of productive soils.
There is still time to ask the council to use best practices in siting solar in MoCo. Take Action Here
- "Such facilities should be excluded from certain categories of land"
- "In general, new energy facilities should be located on land that has little other productive value"
- "Decisions about the siting of energy-related facilities can only be made in the context of sound overall land-use planning. At a minimum the following categories of land should be excluded from consideration as sites for such facilities: ... Prime agricultural lands"
Good Local Solar Policy is one that (Per Dr. Al Bartlett, Member of the Solar Working Group):
- "supports, promotes, and maximizes economically feasible use of" non ag land
- "defines what land should not be used, favoring 'marginal' land over prime productive (USDA Class 1-3) land"
- "promotes or requires agriculture-friendly practices"
- "assures adequate, timely public notification and input"
- "Such a policy would promote greatest feasible solar development on available non-agricultural sites, including rooftops, landfills, and brownfields... Most importantly, it allows the locality to define (ideally, through public discussion) what types of land it wants to exclude from the small amount that solar development will require... To the greatest extent possible, policy should favor use of lower quality land over prime and productive land used for farming."
- "It should include requirements of solar developers for adequate and timely notification of residents - those near a proposed project site, as well as the community at large. This requirement should include an adequate public hearing as part of the review process."
"Where Solar Shouldn't Go is as Critical as Where it Does Go" - Bay Journal OpEd by CBF Land Use Director Lee Epstein 12/20
CBF White Paper "Principles and Practices for Realizing the Necessity and Promise of Solar Power"
- "Either conduct statewide or local solar facility siting studies. "
- "“Community solar” facilities may also be acceptable, if they avoid high quality environmental resources and are not placed on prime farmland or replace forest and woodlands. "
- "Avoid location of solar facilities on prime agricultural soils. Any solar operations on lesser quality agricultural fields must not negatively affect the land and soil that could prevent active farming in the future"
- "At the local level (where appropriate under state law), list solar facilities as, and use the review and approval process for, conditional or special exception uses. "