Community Solar Zoning Text Amendment

The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation (Senate Bill 398/House Bill 1087) in 2015 to allow community solar projects (known as “community solar energy generating systems” or CSEGS) as part of a pilot study, which currently ends in 2022.  Among other things, the State’s community solar pilot program is intended to increase access to solar energy, particularly for residents and small businesses. 

In spring 2020, the Board of County Commissioners (the “Board) directed staff to develop a proposal for a zoning text amendment that would expand opportunities for community solar development in Carroll County on certain parcels in the “A” Agricultural zoning district.  Following the Board’s direction, Land & Resource Management staff developed proposed concepts for a zoning text amendment.  These concepts seek to balance the following by:

  • expanding community solar opportunities,
  • protecting farmland and the County’s investment in agricultural land preservation,
  • co-locating with agricultural use, and
  • addressing common concerns with solar in agricultural areas.

Proposed Concepts for Zoning Amendment

Commercial solar facilities are currently a principal permitted use in the commercial and industrial zoning districts in Carroll County. The proposal would allow community solar facilities to be developed on existing remaining portions in the Agricultural zoning district.  Remaining portions are the land remaining after residential subdivision lots have been created from a legally established parcel of land through the subdivision process. 

The initial Proposed Concepts at the link below outline the various points of the original proposal. 

On December 10, 2020, the Board modified the original proposed location concepts to expand them to all remaining portions.  The link below reflects this modification and shows the revised proposed concepts that will be used as the basis to draft the actual text amendment to the zoning code. 

Based on the proposed concepts, potentially eligible properties were identified that meet this basic criterion.  This exercise helps to provide a sense of the amount and distribution of land that could be eligible.  Below is a link to the map showing these areas.  

If the Board of County Commissioners were to adopt an amendment to allow these facilities on these properties, it should be noted that a property may be eligible based on size, but there are many other factors that affect suitability.  Some of these factors include (but are not limited to):

  • Proximity to three-phase distribution lines,
  • Capacity of the distribution lines,
  • Site constraints, such as slopes, sun exposure, natural resources, etc.,
  • Cost,
  • Maryland Public Service Commission approval, and
  • Utility company approval.

State policy also impacts the extent of solar development that may occur.  Some of these policies currently include:

  • A solar project cannot adjoin another solar project or cross parcel lines;
  • A parcel cannot be subdivided to build solar if it has been subdivided within the past five years; and
  • The maximum capacity of a community solar project is 2 Megawatts.

Process & Feedback

The proposal reflects concepts that staff felt would provide a balance between protecting farmland, co-locating with agricultural use, minimizing impacts, and addressing several common concerns.  However, the concepts also represented a starting point for discussion and feedback.  As a result of feedback, the Board revised the concept for location criteria for eligible parcels.   

  • Stakeholders & Interest Groups: The initial proposed concepts were run by various boards and interest groups.  Feedback was and is welcomed at any time during the process. Property owners and solar industry groups may email feedback with specific concerns, why, and suggested alternatives to Brenda Dinne at bdinne@carrollcountymd.gov.
  • Planning & Zoning Commission: Following the Board’s direction to proceed to the Planning & Zoning Commission, proposed code language reflecting the concepts will be drafted for review by the Planning & Zoning Commission.  Per State law, the Planning & Zoning Commission must be given an opportunity to review proposed zoning changes and make a recommendation to the Board.  The concepts were introduced to the Planning & Zoning Commission at their meeting on January 19, 2021.  The Planning Commission discussed the proposed amendment on February 3, 2021, and draft code revisions on February 16 and March 3, 2021.  Discussion will continue to subsequent meetings until the Planning Commission has approved its final recommendation to the Board.  The next meeting at which the Planning Commission will discuss the draft text is March 16, 2021.  The agendas will be posted on the Upcoming Meetings, Agenda and Public Hearings webpage and will include information to access the meetings.
  • Board of County Commissioners: Once the Planning & Zoning Commission forwards a recommendation to the Board, staff will brief the Board on the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendation.  The Board will discuss the proposed zoning amendment and recommendations and can choose to accept, decline, or modify the recommended proposed zoning text.  Once the Board is comfortable with a proposal to release for public comment, a public hearing will be scheduled to accept official public comments on the proposed code amendment.  Members of the public may provide official comment at that time.  Following the public hearing, the Board will deliberate on the comments and decide how to proceed.  They could adopt the amendment at that point.

Additional Information and Materials

For More Information

We encourage you to review the information on this website to learn about the proposal and the process. 

For more information on community solar energy generating systems (CSEGSs) in Carroll County, please check out the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council’s (EAC) Community Solar webpage.  The EAC’s report to the Board, “Community Solar in Carroll County,” and “A Guide to Becoming a Community Solar Subscriber in Carroll County” are available on this webpage. 

If you have additional questions, you may contact Brenda Dinne (Land & Resource Management Special Projects Coordinator) by email at bdinne@carrollcountymd.gov or by phone at 410-386-2140.