The Carroll County Board of Commissioners convened on Thursday morning to discuss current community solar zoning codes. A unanimous vote sent through a new proposed code that would expand options for solar in the county. Currently, Carroll County only permits solar in industrial and commercial zones.
The amendment to the zoning code would allow for constructing community solar installations on up to 20 acres of agricultural land. Specifically, the land would be remainders, or the parcels leftover after residential subdivisions have been zoned and created. Additionally, the amendment would impose limitations of up to 2-megawatts for each solar installations.
By increasing the possibility for community solar, the board of commissioners is benefiting residents of Carroll County. Community solar gives residents and small businesses the opportunity to subscribe to solar energy. Typically, they would need to purchase costly panels, the community solar requires no private installations. Programs also give a monthly discount on utility bills equal to the amount of energy the household is subscribed to.
According to the director of land and resource management, Tom Devilbiss, the new proposed community solar zoning codes would open up 3,200 acres of agricultural land. There is still additional criteria the land would need to meet to determine eligibility, Carroll County’s special projects coordinator, Brenda Dinne, confirmed.
In 2015, the Maryland General Assembly approved a community solar pilot program. Since then, homeowners have been able to subscribe to community solar programs, but current codes have limited the options. Devilbiss stated that the county commissioners can reject the modified code but cannot do so without a public hearing.
Additional plans were required with the amendment request, including site plans, plans to decommission the site for farm use after the panels are removed, and plans to meet current regulations. Among those regulations is the 15’ maximum height for ground-mounted solar panels.