Editorial: Carroll should expand solar energy options to more residents

A few days before Thanksgiving, Carroll County cut the ribbon for its largest solar field on county government-owned property, an 18-acre array of solar panels at the Hoods Mill Landfill in Woodbine.

Carroll now has a total of 27½ acres covered by 16,753 solar panels on county-owned properties; in addition to Hoods Mill, there are 3 acres at Carroll Community College and 6½ acres at the Hampstead Wastewater Treatment Plant.


Over the next two decades, it is estimated that Carroll County government could ultimately save in the neighborhood of $7.7 million in energy costs because of these solar fields. That’s good news for taxpayers.

The county’s 27 ½ acres of Carroll County’s solar panels are up and running, and county staff say they are projected to save Carroll residents millions of dollars over the next 20 years. Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said the county is also looking at another site for 21 more acres.

The county entered into an agreement to lease the open spaces to the company PSI International, which installed the panels, and is responsible for the system’s maintenance. That was a significant aspect of being able to move forward with such projects, rather than the county funding the costs of the solar panels and their upkeep.


“It doesn’t cost us anything,” Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, told us. “I really like the fact that it costs us no up-front money.”

That’s a big deal for a fiscally conservative government that doesn’t have a lot of money sitting around to purchase and maintain thousands of solar panels on its own, but would certainly welcome the savings generated by harnessing the power of the sun.

Generally speaking, the cost for electricity and energy continues to go up, so it’s good that part of the county’s deal was to lock-in a low rate over the course of the 20-year lease.

Renewable energy such as solar is obviously beneficial to the environment as well, reducing the county’s carbon footprint.

With this in mind, we were glad to hear Frazier say the county was also considering a fourth site to add an additional 21 acres in solar fields.

Embracing solar energy is something we hope that the next Board of County Commissioners, which is set to be seated on Tuesday, will continue to do, and not just for the benefit of county government saving taxpayers money.

Many communities across the country have embraced the idea of solar farms, allowing private residents to use their land to generate energy that is then sold to utility companies like Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

For an agricultural community like Carroll, allowing farmers to lease portions of their land for solar fields to help subsidize their crops, particularly in a year like this one when a few rainy weeks can ruin a year’s harvest — and a family’s income. Certainly, leasing land for solar panels can help pay the mortgage to allow farmers to keep farming the rest of the land.

Carroll County has become the first county in Maryland to be designated “SolSmart Silver” for advancing solar energy growth, the Environmental Advisory Council told the Board of County Commissioners this week. They also delivered a report on Community Solar Energy Generating Systems, CSEGS,..

The argument against solar farms is the arrays can be considered eyesores, and that diminishes the community’s rural landscape. However, solar arrays are far less intrusive and create less strain on the county’s infrastructure such as roads, schools and public safety than housing developments that often end up replacing agricultural land.

Recently, Carroll County was the first county and second jurisdiction in Maryland to be designated a “SolSmart Silver” community, for taking “steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development,” so it’s moving in the right direction.

Continuing to remove these barriers and giving the citizens of Carroll County the same opportunities to embrace solar energy should be a goal of our elected officials. Much progress has been made on this front, and it is something we hope to see continue.

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