Montgomery County, Md., councilmember Tom Hucker has introduced a zoning change in support of community solar in the county.
Hucker – who is the environment lead on the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee – proposed a zoning text amendment (ZTA) that would allow community solar energy installations with a capacity of up to 2 MW. The co-lead sponsor is councilmember George Leventhal, and co-sponsors are councilmembers Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner, as well as Nancy Navarro, council vice president.
According to a press release from Hucker, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law in 2015 creating a community solar program, allowing electricity consumers to subscribe to larger, shared solar projects in their service area. Last year, the Maryland Public Service Commission released its long-anticipated regulations on community solar projects.
Other counties, such as Prince George’s, Baltimore and Anne Arundel, already allow community solar projects, with 38 such projects approved around the state.
However, Montgomery County’s zoning code restricts solar projects to a limited use in nearly all zones and limits solar energy production to 120% of on-site energy consumption. According to Hucker, these outdated restrictions make it difficult, if not impossible, to establish community solar projects because very little excess energy is allowed to be produced to support other subscribers.
The proposed ZTA allows solar projects in zones other than the agricultural reserve and raises the generating limit to 2 MW.
“For years, Montgomery County has been a leader on green energy and other environmental issues,” Hucker says. “Maryland has an average of 213 days of sunshine each year. That’s an important resource that we must take full advantage of. Allowing community solar projects will create jobs and help us meet our renewable energy and greenhouse-gas reduction goals.”
In December, the council passed a resolution setting a goal of eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions entirely by 2035, Hucker notes.
Stephanie Riddick of the Sierra Club Montgomery County Group says her group is “especially appreciative” of the new community solar proposal because it would benefit low- and moderate-income residents.
“We hope that the ZTA will be an opportunity to continue the discussion on how Montgomery County can study our energy situation and work towards creating a 100 percent clean energy future for all county residents,” Riddick says.
More on the ZTA can be found here.