Action Needed: Commercial Scale Solar Arrays on Productive Farmland

Update: Despite the pandemic, this issue is speeding to a decision after clearing the committee still lacking basic protections for water quality and forests.  Local food sources have become a critical resource now more than ever. The Reserve has a role to play in the resilience of our region. Commercial Scale solar is not a farm use and should not be sited as such and a discussion of this issue should not take place when public participation is so difficult (particularly for many Reserve residents who lack access to broadband).

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In January, Councilmember Riemer's Office released proposed Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 20-01 that would allow "community solar" (that would actually power other states) on up to 1800 acres in Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve. While we do need to enact a wide variety of solutions, including solar, to meet the County's ambitious (but necessary) goal of no net carbon emissions by 2035 , a careful review of solutions was undertaken by a tax-payer funded Climate Change Working Group made up of scientists, students, community leaders and other professionals organized into technical committees tackling 7 different areas. Their report found that renewable energy production was necessary, "However, it would be counterproductive for the County to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by turning forests, farmlands and wetlands into industrial facilities for energy capture. These vegetated lands and the soil beneath are important in capturing carbon from the atmosphere, reducing the urban heat island and providing clean water, clean air, biodiversity and other ecosystem services. Preservation and protection of the environment should be an essential component of the County’s shift to net zero"

This ZTA still needs to be amended in the following ways:

- Protection for all productive soils 1-3 (which farms are on which soils?)

-A stipulation that energy generated must be part of the Maryland Community Solar program, and thus made available to low income residents instead of sold to other states.

-Real, meaningful protections for forests and water quality in siting these commercial uses. Leaving these protections to the site plan process is unacceptable.  

Yes, Our climate crisis is an emergency - but in an emergency, you plan solutions calmly, with stakeholders. We have to act now, but we have to also get it right. Take action now.

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