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Md. task force to study solar, wind energy siting

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan set up a task force Aug. 14 to come up with recommendations for siting new solar and wind energy projects in the state.

An executive order signed by Hogan establishing the Governor's Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting points to the need for Maryland to expand renewable energy while protecting the state's economy, environment, natural resources and viewsheds.

The task force is to come up with recommendations to accelerate clean and renewable energy projects while minimizing and mitigating the impact on agriculturally or ecologically important, sensitive and valuable areas. The group has until Dec. 1 to give its initial findings and until Aug. 14, 2020, to provide final recommendations.

The task force will include stakeholders from state agencies along with representatives of Maryland's agriculture community, local governments, and the solar and wind energy sectors.

Hogan on Aug. 14 also announced new initiatives aimed at advancing solar energy deployment and development on state-managed and -owned properties.

The Maryland Department of General Services and the Maryland Environmental Service will conduct an assessment and inventory of state properties that could be used for solar energy.

The state also pledged an additional $4 million in grants to help large public institutions such as community colleges and universities deploy solar arrays on existing infrastructure such as parking lots and rooftops while encouraging state agencies to incorporate solar energy into any future construction.

Hogan said in a statement that the initiatives will "provide millions of dollars in benefits to Marylanders and lower energy and maintenance costs, all while creating clean energy and green jobs opportunities."

The governor let a bill to increase the state's renewable energy portfolio standard from 25% by 2020 to 50% by 2030 become law in May without his signature.

While calling the bill "rushed and deeply flawed," Hogan let the legislation become law to advance a forthcoming proposal for Maryland to have 100% clean electricity by 2040. Hogan plans to introduce his Clean and Renewable Energy Standard proposal on the first day of the next legislative session. Lawmakers are set to return to Annapolis, Md., on Jan. 8, 2020.