-Around 3 square miles of commercial scale solar is proposed for Montgomery County's Ag Reserve under ZTA 20-01, first proposed in January 2020. The ZTA will have a vote in September at the full County Council.
-Despite many hundreds of letters of concern since January from both up and downcounty, this ZTA still has scant/toothless protection for water quality, forests, and notably productive soils - this in the only part of the County set aside for Agriculture. Reserve farms are mostly on productive soil classes 2 and 3 - there are no protections for these soils in this ZTA (map and table of who farms what soil here). In fact the architect of this ZTA, Councilmember Hans Riemer really showed his retisence to protect agriculture in the Ag Reserve when he said the difference between soil types allowed for siting commercial arrays was akin to roof color, asking "Why would we limit solar to only blue roofs?"
-Though we all want to see the county embrace renewable energy, there is disagreement about this flawed ZTA among local environmental groups. Here are the misconceptions supporters of this ZTA have - notably that arrays would have to be part of the Maryland Community Solar Portfolio meant to be accessible to low income people- false. Without clear stipulation that these commercial facilities will be part of the community solar initiative, energy generated will simply flow to the regional grid providing neither affordable energy for local consumers nor satisfying Montgomery County’s mandate for carbon neutral by 2035.
Before the Council votes on this ZTA next month, they need to hear from you, or hear from you again. Please take 2 minutes to take action - and thank you!
It seems that despite the pandemic, the council will be taking up this ZTA allowing siting industrial solar arrays in the Ag Reserve with no protections for productive soils or forests. The findings of the county's climate working group are clear as the Working Group Chair (reiterated in an email here to the Council here and again by MCA and also by Reserve Architect Dr. Royce Hanson. ) - the Ag Reserve is not the place for industrial solar. (The Maryland Farm Bureau agrees)
An Electrical Systems Engineer Expert Weighs In "You can't change the laws of Physics....ZTA 20-01 is not the answer."
The pandemic makes it very difficult for people to properly participate in the public process (particularly in the Ag Reserve where broadband is not universal) but it has put a fine point on the critical value of local farms and local food. Our Land Link program has connected new and expanding farmers with over 500+ acres of leased land. Non-Ag uses like industrial solar make land leases, the lifeblood of farm ventures large and small in MoCo, much less likely to happen with severe impacts on next generation table crop producers - particularly those from under represented backgrounds.
Click Read More on below for all the background on this issue.