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Proposed zoning amendment subject of Washington County Planning Commission meeting

Larger, grid-linked solar-energy generating systems to be considered

July 29, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Two years after Washington County's zoning rules were changed to allow small wind- and solar-power generating systems for on-site use, the county is now considering allowing larger, grid-linked solar-energy generating systems in certain rural districts.

The proposed changes to the county zoning ordinance are the subject of a Washington County Planning Commission public meeting scheduled for Monday evening.

Under the proposed amendments, the larger solar-energy generating systems would be allowed as a special exception in the Agriculture (Rural), Environmental Conservation, Preservation, Rural Village, Industrial Mineral and Airport districts, on lots 20 acres or larger.

The proposed change reflects an increased interest in startup alternative energy businesses, Senior Planner Jill Baker wrote in a report.

"Washington County is now beginning to see more interest in large alternative energy companies wanting to establish stand alone power generating systems whose primary purpose is to generate power to supplement the power grid," Baker wrote.

The proposed zoning amendment defines a solar-energy generating system as "a grid-tie solar facility consisting of multiple solar arrays whose primary purpose is to generate electricity for distribution and/or sale into the public utility grid and not for onsite consumption."

These systems would be subject to a list of design standards, including a requirement for a security fence, a 55-decibel noise limit and a restriction against causing electromagnetic interference to off-site systems.

Under an amendment approved in June 2009, the county already allows size-restricted solar-collection systems as an accessory use in all zoning districts. Those systems may be no bigger than the footprint of the principle structure. And on residential properties in some districts they are limited to half the footprint of the structure or 600 square feet, whichever is greater.

That amendment was intended to allow commercial and residential property owners to operate solar-energy generating systems specifically for consumption on the installation site, Baker wrote.

The public meeting is scheduled fro 6:30 p.m. at 80 W. Baltimore St.

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If you go...

What: Public meeting on solar-energy generating systems

When: Monday, Aug. 1, at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Washington County Administrative Annex Building, 80 W. Baltimore St. in Hagerstown

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