Despite the ample benefits to the community and environment, Montgomery County Council recently put an increased cap on the land eligible for community solar production. On January 26, the council removed 70% of land previously determined capable of housing community solar facilities. This is on top of the significant cap of 1,800 allowable acres proposed in the county’s community solar legislation.
The vote held by the council puts a full moratorium on all community solar production throughout Montgomery County. With the new amendment in place, solar development can no longer be completed on class II soils. Unfortunately, that makes up most of Montgomery County’s available land. The amendment stonewalls solar development companies, making it near impossible to start any shovel-ready projects or even find viable community solar production sites in the future.
By voting against community solar production, Montgomery County has essentially ceased all solar development and, with it, the perks that come with community solar. In the wake of the vote, solar companies have already begun announcing their leave not just from the county, but the entire state of Maryland.
Montgomery County Council’s decision has had an immediate effect on Maryland’s clean energy goals as developers have begun – and may continue to – refuse to develop facilities throughout the state.
With the reduction of community solar production and development, Montgomery has made it increasingly difficult for homeowners to save money on their monthly electricity costs. When residents and businesses subscribe to community solar facilities, they often receive a monthly credit toward their utility bill determined by the amount of clean energy they use.
Fewer community solar sites means fewer opportunities for subscription programs, which will require homeowners to purchase high-cost solar panels should they want to reduce power costs and take part in clean, renewable energy.
Though the vote can be reversed, there has been no word as to whether Montgomery County Council plans on doing so.