Baltimore County Council Introduces Alternative Energy Bills

Date: September 29, 2010

During the September 7, 2010 Baltimore County Council session, councilmen introduced two bills aimed at fostering the use of renewable energy in Baltimore County. Councilmen T. Bryan McIntire, John Olszewski, and Vince Gardina introduced Bill No. 83-10 which permits the use of anemometers within the Rural Conservation zones as a means for determining the availability of wind resources at a given location. Councilman T. Bryan McIntire introduced Bill No. 82-10 which provides tax credits for residential property owners who install solar or geothermal energy systems on their property.

As defined under Bill No. 83-10, an anemometer is a temporary wind speed indicator constructed for the purpose of analyzing the potential for utilizing a wind energy system (i.e. wind turbine) at a given site. The anemometers will be permitted through a use permit application process and may only remain on the property for up to one year from the date on which it begins collecting data. Under the bill, the total height of an anemometer may not exceed 100 feet.

Bill No. 83-10 follows closely on the heels of Bill No. 62-10, which proposed a PILOT program for small scale wind turbines in Baltimore County. Bill No. 62-10 was withdrawn earlier this year by Councilman Gardina. At the present, Baltimore County is one of the few counties in Maryland that has not adopted a zoning ordinance to govern small wind energy systems. Many of the surrounding counties, including Harford, Carroll, Anne Arundel, and Howard1, have adopted a zoning ordinance to govern the use of small wind energy systems.

Bill No. 82-10 proposes a property tax credit for residential property owners who utilize solar or geothermal energy devices. The amount of the credit under the bill is the lesser of 50% of the eligible costs2 or $5,000 for a heating system or $1,500 for a hot water supply system. The credits are capped at $250,000 for a given fiscal year. Applications for the credit which cause the aggregate credit award to exceed $250,000 are to be considered during the next fiscal year or years, depending on how many applications are in the queue.

The public had an opportunity to provide input on both of the bills at the September 28, 2010 Council Work Session. The Council is scheduled to vote on the bills at its meeting on October 4, 2010.

1. As of the date of this article, Carroll County (Article XXXII of the Zoning Chapter of the County Code), Harford County (ยง267-27C(9) of the Harford County Code), Anne Arundel County (Bill No. 39-10), and Howard County (Bill No. 41-10) have all adopted small wind zoning ordinances.
2. "Eligible Costs" under Bill No. 82-10 are those costs incurred "(1) within 12 months before the initial application for the credit; and (2) for the solar energy device or geothermal energy device, including any part, component, or accessory equipment necessary to operate the device, and reasonable costs associated with installing the device."