(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) recently filed comments with the Maryland Department of the Environment urging the agency not to approve a permit for a large solar energy project planned at a heavily forested site in Charles County.
Georgetown University is proposing to clear-cut 240 acres of forest next to an environmentally sensitive stream to build the solar array on the Nanjemoy Peninsula near La Plata. The months-long comment period closed last week and MDE must now decide whether to approve the project.
The stream—Ward’s Run—is one of the few small streams in Maryland that has high water quality, which benefits the fish and bottom-dwelling marine life that live in it. The forest naturally filters the water, helping to protect the stream’s water quality. Ward’s Run is part of a watershed that drains into the Potomac River and its water ultimately ends up in the Chesapeake Bay.
Thick forests composed of diverse plants are among the best water filters on earth. The trees in the forest also store carbon in their roots, trunks, and branches preventing carbon dioxide from migrating into the atmosphere. Neither Georgetown University nor their contractor Origis Energy have quantified the water filtering abilities of the forest they propose to cut down.
While the developers have said they intend to create meadows between the solar panels—they have not revealed how these would be maintained or if they’ll be allowed to grow to the heights needed to attract pollinators such as bees.
The project also fails to address key environmental recommendations in Charles County’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan, which calls for protecting high quality streams and forested land greater than 100 acres from development.
CBF generally supports solar and other renewable energy projects to help transition from carbon-based power sources. However, not at the expense of high-quality forest, which Maryland is losing faster than can be replaced due to development and other pressures.
This project also generated a groundswell of opposition from CBF’s members with more than 2,500 of them submitting comments against the project to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
CBF’s Maryland Assistant Director Erik Fisher issued the following statement:
“Georgetown University’s solar energy goal is admirable, but they should build this project at another location. Marylanders should not have to choose between clean energy and clean water. We do not believe the project passes the regulatory standards put in place to protect the environment in Maryland and the state should deny this permit.”