Few concerns were raised earlier this week at a review for a giant solar farm planned for Perryman making its way through the Harford County permitting process, but the fire and emergency services officials said more information and public education are needed about potential safety hazards.
The project, proposed on a 200-acre site off Chelsea Road owned by Constellation Energy, could potentially become the largest such solar electric generating site in Maryland, producing enough power for the equivalent of 2,000 homes, Constellation Energy said last month.
The plan was reviewed Wednesday by the Harford County Development Advisory Committee, a review panel made up of representatives from key county and state agencies that ultimately must sign off on various permits required.
The solar farm would generate very little traffic and would have minimal impact on the community, despite its massive footprint on what is mostly a field of row crops between Chelsea and Perryman roads, Rowan Glidden, with G.W. Stephens Jr. & Associates engineering firm, told the committee.
"It will be solar panels instead of corn and soybeans," Glidden said of the project.
He noted the site would have "very low traffic generation once construction is done," with one or possibly two vehicles inspecting the area on a monthly basis.
Officials from Aberdeen Proving Ground initially expressed concern about air traffic being affected by glare from the solar array, but Army officials were mollified by a letter sent from Constellation confirming the Federal Aviation Administration had approved the project, APG spokesman Kelly Luster said Wednesday. The military installation shares the same peninsula with the Constellation property.
"Had that FAA Approval been included in previous communication regarding the projects, the letters sent from Aberdeen Proving Ground would likely have not been generated or sent," Luster said via email, adding APG was not intending to stop construction on the project.
County emergency officials, however, were wary about being able to access the site and possible safety hazards from the solar array.
The Aberdeen Fire Department is asking Constellation to conduct a solar farm safety class for the department's members, "since this is obviously a very large project and fairly new," Bill Snyder, of Harford County Volunteer Fire & EMS Association, told Glidden.
Snyder also asked if maps or signs could be placed near entrances to the site to help direct emergency officials around the solar farm's interior roads.
Robin Wales, with the county's Department of Emergency Services, also said: "This can be dangerous to the private citizen getting near a solar panel, if there's an incident there."
Wales added she would encourage a safety class be taught to county officials.
Some fire officials in the county have previously expressed concerns about responding to fires in buildings with solar panels, citing electrocution threats and access issues.
Primary access to the solar farm would be from Chelsea Road, but the developer is also proposing to close an existing entrance at Boyer Road and make a new entrance slightly farther south, Glidden said.
Glenn Dudderar, who lives on Park Beach Drive not far from the site, asked why no community input meeting was scheduled for the project. DAC chairman Mo Davenport explained it was not expected to generate enough vehicle traffic to legally prompt such a meeting.