The sun shines and the wind blows in Frederick County

The renewable energy future is coming fast. Solar and wind have reached a tipping point — they’re less expensive than fossil fuel and nuclear power in more and more situations.

richardjefferies260wThis cycle is self-reinforcing.

The Age of Fossil Fuels is in decline. The Age of Clean Renewable Energy is upon us.

How do we know renewables are winning? Big financial institutions are jumping in to finance wind and solar. It’s no longer a pipe dream. It’s good business. And it’s getting to be a big business.

The solar rush has arrived in Frederick County. Much of our open land is suitable for large-scale solar installations. Many projects have popped up — 60 acres, 100 acres, 200 acres, school property. Some have gotten approved, while others met resistance.

“Solar panels are ugly.”

“I love solar, but not next door to my property.”

“We cannot afford to lose crop land.”

As the rush became a stampede, Frederick County placed a six month hold on applications for large-scale solar, until a process can be put in place to better evaluate each project.

Let’s consider a few things.

If you object to a farm becoming a solar farm, do you object as strongly when a farm is planned to become a subdivision or strip mall? After the 20- to 30-year solar contract, solar panels can be removed and the farmland remains intact; not so with more intensive conventional development.

Also, there is no evidence that having a solar array installed near your home will reduce your property values.

Before looking at pristine farmland for solar, has Frederick County committed to getting solar panels on every flat roof in the county, including the ones the county owns?

From what I understand, when it comes to price, solar cannot compete with the rock-bottom rates the county government pays for its conventional (and dirty — mostly coal) electricity. Wouldn’t we rather pay a little more for clean solar and attract prospective residents and high-value businesses who want to relocate to a forward-thinking community? Especially if we know such a transition will better position us for energy self-reliance in a low-carbon future?

Brunswick summoned the civic will and encountered few objections. It’s going to save money by installing a solar array on municipal land, which will be developed for multiple uses, with trails for hiking and biking. Bravo, Mayor Tome!

Emmitsburg is racing toward its goal of 100 percent energy self-sufficiency, powered by large-scale solar. Bravo, Mayor Briggs!

solararrayfield500w

Man-made climate change is real.

Those who persist in denying it, please go talk to the U.S. military. Pentagon officials say that the Department of Defense must now consider the different impacts of climate change, such as the increase in sea levels, the changing of climate zones and more intense and frequent weather disturbances, and how these factors can affect the security of nations.

When you see a field of solar panels in Frederick County, feel proud that we are doing our part to reduce our impact on climate change.

That said, how many solar panels are too many? How many do we want or need?

All activities in Frederick County consume about 1,122 gigawatts of electricity per year. It takes about two acres to produce one gigawatt annually. Frederick County could be self-sufficient with clean solar power (assuming utility-scale storage, which is coming), using 2,244 acres of land. That’s far less than 1 percent of Frederick County’s landmass. It’s about 500 square feet of solar panels per resident.

We need to be costing out such an approach and compare it to the long-term costs of dirty-power business-as-usual. By using 2,244 carefully chosen acres, we can get clean electricity and countywide self-sufficiency. No longer do we shove the problem off to big fossil fuel plants that spew destructive (mostly invisible) waste back into the Frederick County atmosphere.

We could be a regional model by getting to 100 percent self-sufficiency as soon as possible. Every home, business, school or municipal building that installs rooftop solar contributes to the needed 2,244 acres. Every existing solar installation counts toward the goal. As solar technology gets better and energy efficiency measures are more widely adopted, the total acreage needed can drop.

Frederick County has an excellent program to help residents reduce energy consumption right now, while saving money on energy bills. Check out www.frederickgreenchallenge.org for information.

How much solar do you want in Frederick County? Where do you want to see it and not see it? Do you want to know that county residents are receiving the maximum benefit from large-scale solar arrays, not outside financing entities?

Contact your County Council representative and let your voice be heard at https://frederickcountymd.gov/591/County-Council.


This blog entry was originally published here.

Sustainable Brunswick on Facebook

Standard Solar CASE STUDIES: Town of Emmitsburg

Frederick News Post Editorial
Solar Emmitsburg shines
September 29, 2015

WHAG (Your4State)
Solar-run waste water treatment plant up and running in Emmitsburg
September 28, 2015

Frederick News Post
Emmitsburg opens $19.5M solar-powered wastewater treatment plant
September 25, 2015