Discussions about renewable energy have become more and more frequent in St. Mary’s County, with some residents supporting the rise of solar farms in the area as others oppose it.
The Maryland Public Service Commission on Monday held a public comment hearing on a request by Lightsource Renewable Energy Development to build a 20-megawatt solar generating facility and accompanying interconnecting facilities in the county, dubbed the Whitetail Solar Project.
The proposed site address is 20811 Three Notch Road in Lexington Park, near the Home Grown Farm Market in the Mattapany rural legacy area, and it would be placed near an existing electrical line, allowing more energy to be dispersed throughout the region by feeding into a commercial electrical grid. The facility would take up an 81-acre portion of the approximately 282-acre property.
Members of the public who commented on the proposal spoke before Janice Flynn, a public utility law judge.
According to Tori Leonard, the director of communication for the public service commission, between 12 and 15 members of the public were in attendance at the hearing, and about 10 offered comments.
“Some members expressed opposition to the loss of farmland, the site being located in a rural preservation area, and there is an environmental concern,” Leonard said, adding that there is also a concern with how glare from the solar panels could possibly effect Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The base is in contact with the developers and is working to mitigate problems, she said.
Bryan Thomas, president of the Maryland Farm Bureau, said he attended, along with other members of the bureau, to express their opposition to the solar farm.
“We need to keep agricultural land, and not jam it up with solar panels,” he said this week in a phone interview.
It is important to preserve good, agricultural land and the bureau disagrees with the use of the land for commercial solar panels that are not guaranteed to supply energy to the area, Thomas explained, as the energy will be available for purchase and can be passed to a user 200 miles away.
“The land is a horse farm now,” so it is not like it is sitting unused, according to Thomas, who said he wished that the woman who owned the land would sell it to a farmer instead.
Thomas Brewer, manager of environmental health, safety and sustainability programs at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said he spoke as an individual during the hearing but pointed out how the solar farm could benefit the college.
According to Brewer, the college purchases renewable energy credits from solar farms that are often in other states
“It would be great to get that energy from a local source,” he told The Enterprise. Since the land is currently a horse farm, he argues that it is not being used to grow food anyway.