The denial of a utility scale solar project on part of farm in Snow Hill by the Worcester County Commissioners is puzzling and concerning.
On the agenda Tuesday was a 7.54-megawatt solar project proposed for 28 acres of a 103-acre farm in a rural part of the county. Putting aside the lack of appropriate reasoning outlined by county officials for the denial, the message being handed down by the majority of the commissioners is worrisome on two fronts.
First, the four commissioners opposed to the solar project again went against the recommendation of the county’s planning commission and staff. The proposal represents at least the third instance in the last two months the commissioners have overruled the planning body’s recommendation and seemingly ignored planning officials’ support. If the planning commission’s advice continues to be disregarded routinely, members should resign because they are wasting their time.
Secondly, and most importantly, the agriculture industry is critical to Worcester County. Major changes in farming have resulted in farming families having to pivot to a new normal. In most cases, the profit margins have dwindled, as competition and increased costs rage. Using a quarter of the agricultural parcel for solar is an opportunity to adjust, and even survive, for the private property owners. It’s a massive overreach for the county government to deny a farmer his private property rights.
The Maryland Public Service Commission, the ultimate authoritative body for this utility project, should give little weight to the opinion of the Worcester County Commissioners when it reviews the proposed solar project on agricultural land in Snow Hill. There was no reasoning given for denying the project and therefore the PSC should give no weight to the commission majority’s advisory opinion. We encourage the PSC to ignore the commissioners and approve the project.