This Chapter recognizes the value of solar power in reducing reliance on fossil fuels, but the broader principles of conservation counsel against placement of large solar arrays in the Agricultural Reserve. Although 1,800 acres of solar panels may seem to some to be a small percentage of the total acreage of the Reserve, a more careful analysis reveals that a very large portion of the total acreage is forest, structure or roadway, water, or good-quality soil. We understand that the ZTA does not contemplate cutting forests, nor would it make sense to remove trees to install solar panels, given the carbon-reduction value of trees (the Reserve has been called “the lungs of the County”).
The Agricultural Reserve was created decades ago to enable agricultural production to continue in Montgomery County. Placing panels and equipment on and over soil that is appropriate for food production ignores the original purpose of the Reserve and the value of having that production and that capability in such close proximity to the urban parts of Montgomery County. The value to our community of having that capacity so close to the urban areas is only going to increase. It must be carefully protected.
From a conservation, agricultural and food security perspective, more thought must be given to the alternative uses of the spaces on which solar arrays may be placed. The alternative uses of the land in the Agricultural Reserve are extremely valuable to this community. The proposed text amendment ignores this fact, and accordingly should not be enacted.