County Planners Advance Two Solar Farm Projects

SNOW HILL – Two major solar projects will move on to the Worcester County Commissioners for consideration following a favorable recommendation from the county’s planning commission.

Longview Solar’s plan for a 20-megawatt solar facility on Libertytown Road and a 15-megawatt facility on Public Landing Road both received favorable recommendations from the Worcester County Planning Commission last week.

“Both of these are utility scale projects,” said consultant Dane Bauer. “Longview Solar is in the business of finding property finding substations, doing the upgrades, getting the designs done, getting people like us to do the approvals and then they find the appropriate end user that’s usually somebody like Constellation or Marine Energy or a big utility company.”

In Worcester County Longview has proposed leasing less-than-ideal farmland to build the solar fields. The company’s Byron Crawford has said the projects would allow local families to supplement their farming incomes and that the construction of the facilities would bring as many as 60 temporary jobs to the area. He says the solar arrays would also generate increased real property taxes for Worcester County.

Bauer told the planning commission both projects had already been approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC held a public hearing for each to provide area residents with the chance to comment. Bauer said hearings for such projects were typically not well attended because solar developments caused little disturbance.

“These things hang off brackets so the calculated disturbed area is minor,” he said, adding that roads through the projects were just grass tracks.

The seven-foot tall solar panels Longview plans to install tilt to follow the sun.

“They pick up like 15 percent extra by doing that,” Bauer said.

Planning commission member Jay Knerr asked whether there would be landscaping between the solar panels on Libertytown Road and the adjacent Bay Club.

“Along the golf course that tree line is spotty at best,” Knerr said.

Bauer said landscaping there hadn’t been suggested by county staff and added that no one from the Bay Club had attended the public hearing hosted by the PSC.

Commission member Marlene Ott questioned the durability of the panels in high winds. Bauer replied that they were designed to handle winds up to 130 miles per hour.

The commission voted 5-0 to forward the projects on to the county commissioners with a favorable recommendation.

At last week’s meeting, the commission also approved revisions to the site plans for Park Place Plaza and the Ocean City Worship Center as well as a new site plan for the Hampton Inn and Suites set to be built on the Wheels of Yesterday property. Architects presented drawings of a 56,169 square foot hotel that would house 83 units. The building will be similar in appearance to other Hampton Inn locations.

Commission members were critical of the flat roof proposed for the hotel.

“I think this looks very cookie cutter,” Knerr said.

Keith Fisher of Fisher Architecture said the building was designed to fit the Hampton Inn image.

“It’s a prototype generated by Hampton Inn,” he said. “It’s their branding we’re focusing on.”

Commission members agreed to approve the site plan but did not approve the waiver request that would have allowed the building to have a flat roof.