Energy sprawl from both generation and transmission and the loss of agricultural land is a major concern for the rural farm counties in Maryland. The risk of undermining the farming economy that supports a wide array of businesses in Kent County is imminent. Our high-quality agricultural land is far too valuable to be taken out of production; the preferred use of most land in Kent County as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan is for agriculture. Large tracts of land that are open and flat, perfect for farming, are being threatened by the proliferation of solar, which also endangers the rich agricultural history, cultural identity and sense of community for residents of the county.
Taking into account the capacity factor (solar produces only a fraction of the stated nameplate output) each megawatt of solar generation requires approximately 40-acres/ MW. A 1000 MW nuclear power plant would require 500 acres of land; the same 1000 MW output from solar generation would require 40,000- acres. Developers seek farmland in Kent County and on the Eastern Shore because there are relatively large tracts of level, cleared land at prices far below that found in more populated areas. Our farmland is seen as undeveloped and waiting to be converted into a project.
There are currently no comprehensive statewide planning requirements in Maryland to limit solar facilities to impaired agricultural lands, contaminated soils or appropriate urban spaces (rooftops ad parking lots). Instead for-profit developers are making the decision to remove from production some of the most fertile farmland on the East Coast.
Utility scale solar is not precluded in Kent County. Our Land Use Ordinance allows for solar development in many zones including the Employment and Industrial Districts. Maryland has more than 100,000 acres of brownfield lands or Superfund sites suited for renewable energy development, as identified by the EPA. Moreover, such already built spaces as parking lots and rooftops can be covered in solar. There is also potential for more energy savings coming from conservation. Our prime farmland should not be the first to fall in our battle to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere to combat climate change. We need smarter policies that incentivize and guide for-profit developers away from the current land grab.