Harvesting the Sun on Maryland Farmland: Local Zoning Restrictions for Solar Fields

The increased use of agricultural land for utility scale solar generation facilities (solar fields that generate power for sale) has many Maryland counties struggling with how to balance two public interests – renewable energy and farmland.

The ideal location for a utility scale solar generation facility (solar farm) is a large swath of flat, cleared land (i.e., farmland). The availability of agricultural land, either through purchase or lease, coupled with Maryland’s renewable energy goals and the community solar pilot project (discussed below), has many Maryland counties seeing an influx of zoning and regulatory applications for solar farms on agricultural land. These same counties are concerned that the solar projects will diminish the available agricultural land and are tightening zoning regulations to further restrict its use. But, the effectiveness of these local efforts remains to be seen because, typically, State law impliedly preempts local law in the area of solar farms. This could leave many local regulations without teeth.

Click here to read the full article written by Casey Cirner for the Maryland Bar Journal.