- Are You Considering Siting and Permitting a Large Solar Facility in Maryland?
- April 23, 2018 | Author: Todd R. Chason
- Law Firm: Gordon Feinblatt LLC - Baltimore Office
All developers know intuitively that siting anything involves a myriad of considerations. Today I’ll highlight three issues you need to know about for permitting projects in Maryland.
WHERE? HOW? WHAT?
First, where do you even apply? The authority reviewing your permit depends on the size of your planned facility. Facilities under 2 MWs are permitted through the local land use and zoning process, with individual state agency involvement on an “as needed” basis. For these smaller arrays, the permitting is very similar to what you would see if you were building a commercial building, a residential subdivision, etc. If, however, your facility is more than 2 MWs, and you do not have onsite load, you will instead need a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity or “CPCN.” Applications for CPCNs are overseen by the Maryland Public Service Commission, with comprehensive input from both other state agencies and local authorities.
UNDERSTAND THE CPCN PROCESS AND LOCAL JURISDICTION
Second, if my facility is going through the CPCN process, does that completely remove the local jurisdiction from the process? Definitely not. Although the Public Service Commission does make the final decision on your permit, the law is clear that the Commission must give due consideration to the position of the local jurisdiction, and the Commission has recently denied CPCN applications based primarily on local opposition. The local jurisdiction does not, however, have veto power over projects. The best advice is to approach the local jurisdiction early and often, treading with care and respect.
MARYLAND’S FOREST CONSERVATION ACT AND CPCN
Third, does Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act, or FCA, apply to CPCN facilities? FCA applicability is not black and white. Rather, because the FCA is administered at the local level, it depends on whether the local ordinance applies. The Commission has been very deferential to local authorities, exempting facilities from FCA compliance when the local jurisdiction supports exemption and requiring full FCA compliance when the local ordinance applies. Because of this wide spectrum of potential requirements and costs, developers should get a handle on the FCA very early in the process.