A Bill in Montgomery County Aims to Power 50,000 Homes With Solar Energy

by Nena Perry-Brown
Published January 22, 2020

A new bill in Montgomery County seeks to power over 50,000 homes with solar energy.

County Councilmember Hans Riemer and Council Vice President Tom Hucker introduced ZTA 20-01 this week, a bill to permit community solar farms on up to 2% of the 93,000 acres the county currently has zoned for Agricultural Reserve. This would enable up to 1,800 acres to be used for community solar, powering an estimated 54,631 homes.

Community solar farms tend to occupy 10-12 acres of land, and homeowners or renters who cannot install solar panels themselves are able to purchase solar energy from providers. It is expected that each solar farm would offset the annual carbon emissions of 364 homes.

The current zoning code prohibits solar farms on Agricultural Reserve land. The proposed amendment would require that the ground under the solar panels in these farms be graze-able, minimize tree removal, and have pollinator-friendly plants. Montgomery County declared a climate emergency in December 2017 and is aiming to eliminate carbon emissions by 2035.

“We must use every tool at our disposal to cut our carbon emissions, and that means allowing community solar everywhere in Montgomery County,” Council Vice President Hucker said in a statement.

A similar, albeit much less restrictive, zoning text amendment passed in DC last year, permitting by-right solar farms citywide. In addition to striving for carbon neutrality by 2050, the city is also aiming to cut the energy bills of 100,000 low-income households in half by 2032 via the Solar for All program.