Maryland law requires the utilities to obtain an annually increasing percentage of their electricity from clean sources such as solar energy. This has created a market for large-scale commercial solar farms. In 2017, Baltimore County Council passed Bill No. 37-17, which allows developers/landowners to petition the county for a special exception to develop up to 10 “solar farms,” each with a capacity of 2 megawatts (MW), in certain rural and commercial zoning districts in each of the 7 council districts.
A number of petitions are currently under review. Some have expressed concern that the proposals involve large ground-mounted solar arrays on farm land, making it unavailable for most agricultural uses, which is inconsistent with the rural character of the north county. Colleen is committed to working toward developing siting and scaling criteria for commercial facilities that balance the farmer’s need to make a viable living with the need to preserve the rural and scenic character of North County. Properly sited and scaled installations–for example, on farmland that is marginal for cultivation–with appropriate screening and setbacks from public roads and neighboring properties, can provide important benefits to our environment. They can help diversify vegetation, which creates pollinator and wildlife habitats. Their year-round ground cover improves soil and water quality, by reducing fertilizer and pesticide runoff and demands for groundwater for irrigation.
Maryland law also allows homes, farms and businesses to generate solar energy for their own onsite use and to “net meter” a portion of any excess generation back to the grid. A growing number of homeowners, farmers and businesses in Baltimore County are installing solar photovoltaic (PV) collectors to reduce their electricity bills and become energy self-sufficient and non-polluting.
This is permitted under the county’s zoning law. While typically mounted on rooftops and other impervious surfaces such as the parking lot canopies at the county’s three CCBC campuses, these installations may also be ground-mounted to generate electricity for onsite residential or farming operations.
At the same time that Maryland is greening its electricity grid, it has become a national leader in providing incentives for its residents to own, drive and charge non-polluting, plug-in electric cars. Federal and state tax credits of up to $10,500 for the purchase of an electric vehicle (EV), rebates for EV charging equipment, and lower operating costs make the life-cycle costs of EVs lower than comparable cars with internal combustion engines (ICEs). Maryland has partnered with 11 other states to seed the buildout of public EV charging stations throughout the mid-Atlantic/Northeast corridor to make both local and interstate travel feasible and convenient.
Baltimore County has benefitted from this program with state-funded charging stations at transit connections such as the Lutherville Light Rail station park & ride and the White Marsh commuter bus parking lot.
Colleen will ensure that the county benefits from these opportunities to continue to build this growing charging network.
Read more about Colleen’s vision for improving our quality of life by tackling the opioid crisis, the decline in home ownership, and inefficient public transit. And check our her Baltimore Sun op-ed, “Design Baltimore County’s Streets for People, Not Just Vehicles, To Make Everyone Safer.”