The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and DC today announced that it will release a new series of analyses on the deployment of new solar energy infrastructure in Maryland to help lawmakers and the public make socially and environmentally sound decisions on ideal locations for solar development. The first of those reports was released today, which synthesizes stakeholder feedback from a series of community meetings focused on solar energy in Maryland’s future that The Nature Conservancy held across the state in 2018.
Following the recent passage of the 2019 Clean Energy Jobs Act by the Maryland state legislature, Maryland has a new goal of achieving 50% from renewable energy by 2030 with a significant focus on solar energy. With that higher goal now in place, the timeline for making decisions on where to construct new solar infrastructure is accelerating as well.
“Maryland’s Clean Energy Jobs Act is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our state to secure clean air, green jobs, and sustainable energy for the future, but it’s critical that we make informed decisions about the best places for new solar infrastructure,” said Tim Purinton, Director of The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and DC. “Unfettered development in the wrong places could cause permanent damage to Maryland’s natural resources, so it’s vital that we bring the best available science and land management experience to the decision-making process.”
“Largescale solar expansion is crucial to meeting the state’s clean energy goals and driving down emissions required under the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act,” said Maryland Senator Paul Pinsky. “We have to be aggressive and thoughtful in plotting locations for expanding solar and other clean energy. Protecting the planet from climate change while protecting our natural resources should direct our efforts.”
The planned analyses are intended to accelerate deployment in the “right places,” which are usually marginal and low-conflict lands where the construction of new solar infrastructure will benefit people, nature, and the economy, rather than negatively impact them.
Following conversations with partners and stakeholders studying solar development in Maryland, The Nature Conservancy set out to talk to as many people as possible with a role or active interest in renewable energy development to better understand the existing problems and help identify a better path forward. Listening sessions were convened across the state – in Frederick, Annapolis, and Salisbury – at unique locations with the assistance of a professional facilitator. The results of those listening sessions have been summarized in the first report, which includes three key takeaways.
• A shared focus on developing renewable energy in marginal and low-conflict lands will allow Marylanders to take advantage of the many benefits of renewable energy while avoiding potential negative impacts.
• Significant hurdles currently prohibit or disincentivize renewable energy development in desired locations (i.e., low-conflict lands), but these hurdles provide opportunities to revise or create incentives and development drivers focused towards these types of lands.
• State and local governments play a critical role in assuring success and fostering continued innovation. Working to coalesce around a common goal of increasing renewable energy development focused on marginal and low-conflict lands will get the best outcome for the State.
“Identifying the areas where we can maximize the benefit of renewable energy is just the beginning for solar deployment,” said Josh Kurtz, policy director for The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and DC. “We now have a much better idea of where we’ll find potential areas for deployment that protect forests and healthy farm soils while maximizing benefits for the State and individual landowners. For the next steps, the leadership of state and local governments and private utilities will be critical as Maryland looks for opportunities to streamline the deployment process and get these new solar projects on the grid.”
These findings and others will be presented by The Nature Conservancy on a panel with Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles and Senator Paul G. Pinsky at the Maryland Clean Energy Center in October 22, 2019.
The Nature Conservancy will also be conducting a mapping exercise to identify and evaluate marginal land areas all across the state as potential sites for development. This will result in a compilation of areas and locations that contain the most elements for success and a better understand of how much real potential there is for widespread solar development in Maryland. The data will be made publicly accessible online.
The spatial analysis and data portal are scheduled to go live later this year.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. Learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s work in Washington DC and Maryland at nature.org/maryland and follow us @Nature_DCMDVA on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.