By taking âbold steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development,â Carroll County recently became the first county and second jurisdiction in Maryland to be designated âSolSmart Silver.â
The national designation program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, recognizes jurisdictions that âfoster the development of mature local solar markets.â
âFor companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Silver designation is a signal that Carroll County is âopen for solar business,â â a news release from the county touts.
Weâre hopeful county leadership will continue to build on these successes of embracing solar energy by considering changes to local zoning to open access to more residents.
According to the countyâs listing on SolSmart.org, Carroll County created an online permitting checklist, increasing transparency for community members and solar installers; reviewed local zoning codes and identified restrictions that intentionally or unintentionally prohibit solar development; allowed solar by-right accessory use in all zones, and cross-trained both inspection and permitting staff on solar.
The Environmental Advisory Council, which presented the news to the Board of County Commissioners recently, also noted the countyâs guide to residential solar installation, which can be found on the EAC section of the countyâs website.
In the same presentation, the EAC also delivered its final report on Community Solar Energy Generating Systems in Carroll County. The report details current regulations on solar and also explains how residents could subscribe to a community solar facilities â both in and outside Carroll County â in order to enjoy the benefits of using solar without having to install panels on their property.
While many people recognize the benefits and cost-savings of harnessing the energy of the sun, installing solar panels on your own property can be both expensive and a bit of an eyesore. There can be other complications too, such as having a wooded lot that doesnât receive as much sun or not enough land to place enough panels to generate a sufficient amount of energy.
In addition to lessening dependance on fossil fuels and reducing the carbon footprint, a company or nonprofit that owned a community solar facility could also receive tax incentives, EAC members told the commissioners.
The report offers a number of recommendations to the county commissioners to increase access of Carroll residents to these community solar facilities. Some examples include new zoning definitions and provisions for CSEGS, making a community solar facility an accessory use on commonly owned property within a homeownerâs association, permitting solar energy conversion facilities in the Employment Campus zoning district, and considering solar canopies in parking lots.
Not all of these would be necessary to implement at once, but we hope that the county commissioners will continue to remove barriers in order to encourage both the construction and use of new solar facilities in Carroll County. Clearly, the county is moving in the right direction with its SolSmart designation.
With the election now in the rear-view mirror, and new commissioners taking their seats on the board next month, it seems unlikely the current Board of County Commissioners will take action on any of these recommendations, but we would encourage the new board not to let this work go to waste, and will revisit it soon enough.
The solar guide and report can both be found on the EAC section of the Carroll County Government website at www.ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/eac.