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Manchester plans hearing for community solar project regulations, gets clean water report

The Town of Manchester is considering a proposal to define standards for community solar energy generating systems, possibly opening the door to such a project in the future. And the town’s most recent drinking water report came back clean in all areas.

A Community Solar Energy Generating System, or CSEGS, is a specific type of project, as defined in Maryland state code in 2015. It allows those who can’t install solar equipment of their own to “subscribe” to locally produced solar power from a system built in their area.

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The town was previously approached by a group who wanted to build one of these systems, but the town did not have regulations laid out in its zoning code to dictate standards, Zoning Administrator Michelle Wilder said.

A hearing will be held July 14 at 7:30 p.m. so the public can comment on an ordinance that would set out definitions and regulations relating to community solar projects in the town’s zoning code.

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The meeting will be broadcast live on Channel 23. Those wishing to make public comment can email at info@manchestermd.gov beforehand or call in during the meeting to 410-239-3200. Commenters should include their name and address. Email comments will be read aloud during the hearing and phone comments will be heard via speakerphone.

The goal is so Manchester can be proactive, Wilder said. Under these regulations only a few properties in the town would be suitable for a CSEGS project, she said.

The public announcement for the hearing states that the proposals are intended to make sure that a solar energy project built in town would “provide the benefits of renewable energy generation without unduly impacting the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The proposed amendments can be found in full at the town’s website, manchestermd.gov. The regulations address things like the height of ground-mounted equipment, the size of the lot and the increased requirements for landscaping on the lot.

For example, the regulations propose that, “Setbacks to the structure and all associated equipment shall be a minimum of twice the normal setbacks from the boundaries of all adjoining properties as that of the underlying zone.”

Any future CSEGS project proposed by an energy provider would have to be reviewed and approved by Manchester’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

Maryland’s Public Utilities Code defines CSEGS projects in Section 7-306.2. They are connected to the state electric grid and provide power to people in the same electric service territory. The CSEGS credits the value of its generated energy to the bills of subscribers.

In passing regulations in 2015, the Maryland General Assembly found that these systems benefit Maryland by helping achieve the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act goals.

Drinking water report

The town’s annual drinking water report for 2019 came back clean.

According to the report, Manchester’s drinking water met or exceeded all state and federal requirements, which include tests for contaminants. The report can be viewed on the town’s website.

The Department of Public Works wrote in an announcement, “Our constant goal is to provide you and your family with a safe and dependable supply of drinking water. We want you to understand the efforts we make to continually improve the water treatment process and protect our water sources. We at the Town of Manchester Water Department arc committed to ensuring the quality of your water.”

The town’s water is sourced from 18 wells and one spring. They ask residents to help protect water sources, “which are the heart of our community, our way of life, and our children’s future.”

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For questions about the water report, contact Director of Public Works Rodney Kuhns or the Town Office at 410-239-3200.

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