Maryland Farmland Could Find New Life as Sites for Solar Projects

2725

Legislation pending in Maryland calls for several hundred acres of Maryland farmland to be used for solar power projects. Much of Maryland farmland is currenly set aside in a preservation program, making it difficult for the land to be used for solar.

While Maryland has dropped off the list of Top 10 Solar States, new legislation in the state could help increase solar there.

Several bills currently pending in House and Senate committees could allow several hundred acres of Maryland farmland to be used for solar power projects. These bills will allow landowners who decide to sell development rights to the state government up to 5 acres each for decomposing animal and crop waste, and generating electricity from wind and sunshine.

“This bill is critical if we want to have wind power in Maryland,” Jonas Jacobson, lobbyist for a Virginia-based renewable energy company, told lawmakers recently about one of the bills. They’re just as important for solar power. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and his administration fully support these bills, stating that they “could help struggling farmers stay viable while boosting the prospects for clean, renewable energy.”

 

Some groups who are opposed to this move, believing that any non-agricultural activity on land set aside for farming could severely damage Maryland farmland — even though the state claims to have one of the most successful preservation programs in the country. Much of Maryland farmland has been preserved, which makes it difficult for land to be used for large solar projects.

 

This could prove to be a big problem for Maryland as the state strives to reach its goal of producing 20% of its energy from renewable sources. The Maryland Energy Administration believes that preserved farmland should be used under certain conditions, while the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation supports leasing out a certain amount of land for specific projects.