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Senate OKs clean energy on preserved farmland

The Senate approved legislation Thursday that will allow some renewable energy generation equipment to be placed on land that farmers have put under agricultural easements, sending its version to the House.

The 44-3 vote would clear the way for farmers to enter into contracts with companies that produce energy from solar panels, windmills, chicken litter or cattle manure to use their land for those facilities in exchange for payment. Those payments would be on top of the money farmers had already received from the state for putting land into permanent conservation.

The House has already passed a similar bill, but the two chambers must pass the bill in identical form before it can go to the governor for his signature.

Both versions leave the decision whether to approve a farmer's request to used conserved land for energy purposes up to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation. Farmers would be limited to using five acres for energy generation and would have to pay 5 percent of their lease proceeds to the state for future farmland preservation. Both the House and Senate would bar the placement of tall wind turbines on land where they might interfere with the Doppler radar at Patuxent Naval Air Station.

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