The Nature Conservancy to Release Report on the Deployment of New Solar Energy

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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.

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Letters to Editor

  1. James r Durham 111 MA,PE says

    The term “Solar Energy” has become somehow synonymous with “photovoltaic” or “solar electric”, which is misleading. Solar hot water heating is actually superior to solar electric for
    several reasons:(1) Solar energy in the form of hot water can be stored easily at low or no cost. (2) Solar water heating is far less expensive initially ($7-8,000 for energy equivalent of
    a 15KW solar electric system costing $30,000 or more(15KWH would heat 80 gals of water per day).(3) Solar hot water systems can last many times longer than photovoltaic systems
    (we have installed some which are still viable after 35yrs, whereas solar electric panels begin to degrade after 10-12 years and are basically useless after 20-25 year. (4) Electric solar
    panel manufacturing uses toxic materials(Gallium arsenide and others) (5) Solar electric panels are mostly non-recyclable wheres hot water collectors are almost 100% recyclable.
    (6) Covering millions of acres with electric panels creates a non-arable desert where food crops will not longer be grown.

    Instead of the “more power for the people” syndrome, it would behoove us all to focus on super-conservation(super-insulated houses, parasitic energy use reduction wiser use of
    energy overall, consolidated driving-errand trips, etc.) Consider also that with over 105,000 flights PER DAY with an average fuel usage of 5,000 gals, flying (and driving)
    consume the majority of fossil fuels and contribute hugely to air pollution and obviously “climate change”.

    Although electric cars SEEM to be a kind of panacea, China holds the vast majority of rare earth materials(Neodymium, Yttrium, and others which make batteries for cars
    viable(and super-magnets for windmills possible). The USA USED to mine these in Mountain Pass, Ca, but between the EPA and market flooding(and control) of these
    rare earths, we no longer produce rare earths needed for almost all batteries(Lanthanum for NiMH batteries) , electric motors, large generators, and more.

    Offering more and more “energy” is like a buffet table for consumers; if we are offered more at the table, we take it and throw a lot of it away in the form of waste.
    In the mid to 2/3 point in the last century, with 4 billion people or so, there was little problem. It seems unfair and inhumane to say, but over-population and over-
    consumption may well lead to our demise. And the main causes of wars have been(aside from territorial control) religion, natural resources(fossil fuels, rare earths etc) and
    arable land(which is disappearing under the dusty footprint of mankind.

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