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Solar energy could be added to Carroll County Master Plan — possibly boosting chances for grant funding

Solar energy could be added to Carroll County Master Plan — possibly boosting chances for grant funding
There are 8910 solar panels in Woodbine part of the Carroll County Solar Array Project, pictured on Nov. 20, 2018. (Ken Koons/Carroll County Times file)

Carroll County plans to formalize its work in expanding solar energy by adding provisions to its master plan, possibly making the county eligible for more funding assistance in its renewable energy projects.

Planning Department Director Lynda Eisenberg presented a draft text amendment to the 2014 Carroll County Master Plan to the Planning Commission this week — and told its members the new specificity can help the county stay ahead of its needs.

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“Solar energy is becoming very popular for residential [properties], and as an offset to commercial and industrial use,” she said at the March 19 meeting.

The amendment includes information on the county’s progress in solar energy — including its more than 500 solar facilities at locations such as Carroll Community College and Hoods Mill Landfill; the recent SolSmart silver designation the county received last year for its progress in renewable solar energy; and the criteria required to receive the SolSmart designation.

Eisenberg said the SolSmart designation was given to the county because of its permitting process that allows for solar in all zoning districts as a primary principal accessory use.

“It can be on rooftops, or pole mounted in residential, as well as commercial districts,” she said, “and we allow solar energy conversion in our higher commercial and industrial districts as well.”

In 2019, about $500,000 in grant funding was available for qualifying jurisdictions to use for solar projects, Eisenberg said.

And the amendment could get Carroll on the playing field to access that money.

“Just as we’ve gone out for the [other designations that increase eligibility for funding assistance], this is just one more tool in the tool box for grant opportunities in the county,” Eisenberg said. “That’s why it’s important to be able to have something mentioning our commitment to that in here.”

The amendment also talks about a committee the state is creating through the Maryland General Assembly this year, and how Carroll “would flow into that,” she said.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said he was particularly interested in seeing the solar text, and a future solar plan, because of the pending group.

“There is legislation right now down in Annapolis to establish a committee, a task force of sorts, for the entire state,” he told a community member — who said he was hoping to get a solar field on his farm property one day — during the public comment section of the meeting.

“We are going to be active in that task force, as well as come up with the best solution, best rationale [for] what should be allowed and not allowed,” Rothstein said.

“What I’m concerned with is that the state does not try to be more of a bully to the county and say ‘You will allow this,’ ” he said. “So we’ve got to make sure we can tell our own story for the good of Carroll County.”

The Planning Commission agreed to look at the draft and bring their comments and suggestions to the group’s next meeting as the text amendment is developed.

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