Farmers in rural areas are becoming more interested in switching crops to solar panels. All the while, Baltimore County officials are contemplating how to regulate solar installation. Cockeysville Republican, Wade Kach, said, “I want to get something in place that is reasonable, rational and as good as we can make it.”
Recently Kach proposed a bill that would limit rural famers from installing solar arrays on no more than 50 percent of their property or 20 acres, whichever is less. The bill would also regulate how tall solar panels could be, fencing and landscaping that would be required and how close panels can be from the property line.
Historical districts and properties enrolled in agricultural preservation programs would not be allowed to have solar farms. Kach’s bill is expected to face a hearing on January 10, 2017, at which time a vote could be held.
Solar farms on ag preservation land have already been approved in Howard County. However, Kach doesn’t think it is a good idea, because the lands have been preserved specifically for farming and tax dollars has been invested in programs to preserve the lands.
Anyone wanting to install solar panels on their rural property would need to win approval from a county administrative judge. The panels would also have to be located in areas that would not impact scenic views. Prime and productive agricultural soil would be excluded from placement.
The bill would not apply to solar projects on government land or residents living in rural areas who want to install solar panels to power their farm or home. This is Kach’s second attempt at creating fair rules for solar farms, he withdrew the last bill he proposed.
Solar companies are offering rural property owners $1,000 per acre annually for solar panel installation. This proposition looks attractive to rural property owners.
“We don’t want to limit what an individual can do with their property,” said Jo-Ann Chason, president of the county farm bureau. “That being said, the consensus of the farm bureau is that we would prefer not to see productive farm ground taken out of production.”
Chason went on to say that it would be nearly impossible to turn fields with solar panels back into healthy soil for growing crops. “The primary purpose of a farm is to feed people and solar energy doesn’t feed anybody,” Chason said.