Apr. 7—A second virtual public hearing about a proposed solar power facility along Route 136 in the Creswell area of Harford County is slated for later this month.
The Maryland Public Service Commission will host the virtual hearing regarding the 30-megawatt Fairview Farms project at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 20. Public Utility Law Judge Christine Burke will preside over the hearing.
During a December virtual meeting for public comment, several residents and representatives of the county government voiced objections to the proposal, which would place 102,000 photovoltaic panels on 140 acres of land at 2000 Calvary Road.
PTR HoldCo LLC, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Pro-Tech Energy Solutions LLC, is seeking state approval to build a facility. Pro-Tech develops, builds and operates solar projects along the East Coast for other customers, such as online retailer Amazon, company officials previously told The Aegis.
The agriculturally zoned property slated for the Harford County facility is located between Route 543, Schucks Road and Route 136. The land is owned by the Fielder family, who currently operate a farm there. Pro-Tech would lease the land for the solar facility. While the total parcel is 255 acres, solar panels would not occupy all the land; Pro-Tech officials said the company avoids developing regulated areas like wetlands and streams.
Pro-Tech and Fairview Farms LLC, made up of Fielder family members, first sought approval to build the solar power facility from Harford County in 2017. County planning officials initially denied the project in 2018, but it was cleared to move forward following a Circuit Court decision in 2019.
Pro-Tech's environmental report notes that the project meets Harford County regulations for ag zones, which allow a "public utility facility" to be built in those districts.
The proposed solar facility will absorb sunlight, create energy, then send it to BGE's power distribution grid through a connection to the utility's existing lines along Route 136, directly across the highway from the farm, Pro-Tech officials said. BGE has already approved the project and signaled that the power grid can handle the additional capacity. The project represents between $55 million and $60 million in capital investment, Pro-Tech officials said.
The energy created by the solar facility would be sold back to BGE for use across the power grid.
The solar facility is not a permanent use of the property, but an interim one, and the panels and supporting infrastructure can be removed once the facility's useful life of 25 to 30 years has ended, officials said. Once the facility is removed, the property can be returned to its agricultural state if the owners and county officials desire.
At the December hearing, residents urged the location be reconsidered, and county government said the proposed project ran against its philosophy of land development and could upend decades of precedent in the county. The PSC, ultimately, decides where solar farms are placed.
The county administration did introduce, and the Harford County Council passed last month, legislation that will allow community solar energy generating systems on select types of land in the county. At the December PSC hearing, the county's then-planning director said the local legislation would provide more direct economic and environmental benefit to communities than larger-scale solar energy installations like the one proposed for Fairview Farms, and would allow them to be stealthily integrated into communities to minimize the drawbacks of solar power facilities.
Any member of the public who wants to speak during the hearing should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Monday, April 19. The hearing will be held on the WebEx platform and registered participants will receive an email to join the hearing. People also can watch the hearing live online via the Public Utility Law Judge Division channel on YouTube.
Written comments can be submitted to the PSC online until April 29, or sent by mail, addressed to Andrew S. Johnston, Executive Secretary, Maryland Public Service Commission, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul Street, 16th Floor, Baltimore, Maryland 21202.
Whether submitted online or by mail, written comments should include a reference to Case No. 9652. People can visit a PSC web page for Case 9652 for background information on the project, including a link to the application and Environmental Review Document.