Action Needed: Large Scale Solar Arrays on Productive Farmland
Climate Change is an emergency - let's meet this challenge with a comprehensive plan.
Please take action by 2/14
Councilmember Riemer's Office has released proposed Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 20-01 that would allow "community solar" 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 is being 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. Since July this group has been laser focused on creating a plan that will implement county-wide solutions, including solar, in a collaborative way.
Local climate activists and MCA have asked that this ZTA be shelved to allow this more collaborative and holistic process to finish. Taking farmland out of production and using green space far from power infrastructure for solar collection may not be the best solution. We want to hear from the Climate Change Working Group who have spent months pooling expertise on this topic.
This ZTA is not just preemptive, it is also incomplete. It proposes an industrial use for area zoned for agriculture in opposition to the Master Plan. No thought has been given to the differing economies of solar vs. agriculture - there is nothing in this ZTA to prevent a land grab that prices local farmers off their land to install solar panels. There are also no provisions to protect fertile soils, habitat or forested areas.
We are being told that the Reserve needs to do it's part on climate change, and we are.
- With programs like Re-Leaf the Reserve which provides plantings of native trees to fight climate change,
- The promotion of regenerative agricultural practices which increase resilience to climate change
- And helping to preserve farmland to ensure food security in close proximity to our metro center
Learn more about how the Reserve can fight climate change and provide resilience for the region here.
The Reserve can do more but only in collaboration with stakeholders. This ZTA is an end run around the important work being done by the Climate Change Working Group.
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. This ZTA needs to take a pause while the Climate Change working group completes their work to chart the county's path to climate sustainability.