Former Walkersville Burgess Ralph Whitmore’s farm on Biggs Ford Road may soon be a very large solar farm. The Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals will hear a request from Biggs Ford Solar Center LLC and Coronal Development Services, both of Charlottesville, Virginia, for a special exception use on the property which is zoned agriculture. The property is located just outside of Walkersville at the corner of Dublin Road and Biggs Ford Road.
Biggs Ford Solar Center LLC plans to establish a non-governmental utility operating a photo voltaic solar farm. The farm will be built on approximately 140 acres of the approximately 151 acre parcel of land located at 8300 Biggs Ford Road near Walkersville in Frederick County, Maryland.
The proposed solar farm plans a generation capacity of approximately fifteen megawatts of alternating current for delivery of electric power directly to the grid. The panels and racking system would be supported by steel piles driven below grade, with the top of the panels standing no higher than twelve feet above the ground. The applicants state in their application, “The conversion of sunlight energy into electricity is one of the cleanest and environmentally benign methods for large scale electricity production.”
The Property to be utilized for the proposed site is currently in use for agriculture. Only minimal ground disturbance will be initiated, as solar array installations are by nature minimally-invasive. With ground disturbance being substantially limited to trenching for electrical conduit, placement of the racking system piles, minimal grading and placement of fence posts and access roads. Applicants claim that, “The ground surface will remain primarily in its natural state, and meet all necessary standards for state and local storm water and erosion control measures.”
The Board of Appeals previously granted special exceptions for similar projects in Frederick County. Special exceptions for solar farms were granted:
- in 2011 for Mt. St. Mary’s University solar array farm consisting of 220,000 solar panels, on a 135.84-acre tract,
- in 2013 for 3 acres on Orndorff Road on ,
- in 2013 for 14 acres on Taneytown Road,
- in 2014 for 6.2 acres on Cremery Road, and
- in 2015 for 55 acres on Old Frederick Road.
Coronal Development Services states that it is currently developing multiple ground-mounted solar energy projects throughout twenty states across the continental United States of America. They report to have more than fifteen years of experience in the renewable energy space. “We understand what it takes to develop a successful project that marries the economic needs of the county, the landowner, and our investors,” according to Ryan Gilchrist, Project Developer for Coronal Development Services.
According to documents provided to the Board of Zoning Appeals,
“Coronal Development Services is a premier U.S. solar development firm with a primary focus on utility scale solar projects. Coronal Development Services began doing business as HelioSage Energy in 2008. Focused on serving utilities, HelioSage became one of the fastest growing solar development firms in the country, executing over 400 megawatts (MW) of power purchase agreements with clients including Gulf Power (FL), Duke Energy (NC), Georgia Power (GA), Pacific Power (OR), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TN). The CDS management team has been responsible for the financing and construction of over 580 megawatts of renewable energy projects nationally, including New England’s largest solar project for Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) and one of the country’s largest Southeastern solar energy portfolios comprised of multiple projects that will sell power to Duke Energy-Progress and the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Agency.
In 2015 Coronal Group, a Panasonic Eco Solutions Partner, acquired HelioSage Energy and formed Coronal Development Services (CDS). The formation of CDS pairs HelioSage’s development expertise with the financing, construction and asset management capabilities of Coronal Group, which maintains an exclusive strategic partnership with Panasonic Eco Solutions a division of Panasonic North America – a Fortune 100 company and an $80 billion entity.”
Due to concerns in Frederick County about the number of applications and regulation of these solar farms, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner will hold a second public information briefing this week at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, January 15, in the third floor meeting room of Winchester Hall. During the briefing, she will announce her plans to address concerns raised by citizens regarding large solar farm proposals.The briefing will be broadcast live on FCG-TV (cable channel 19) and webcast at www.FrederickCountyMD.gov/video.
Due to its proximity to Walkersville, The Town of Walkersville has been asked by Frederick County to comment on the proposal. The Walkersville Planning Commission will discuss the proposal at its next public hearing. The members of the Planning Commissions’ comments will be forwarded to the Burgess and Commissioners to then be forwarded to the County.
A Public Hearing regarding the planned solar farm will be January 28, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. in the first floor hearing room of Winchester Hall.