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ESCL hosts annual planning meeting
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
EASTON, Md. (Dec. 1, 2015) — In recent years, large renewable energy projects on Delmarva have drawn local opposition from area residents ultimately pushing the projects off indefinitely.
How the region proceeds with future renewable energy projects was the topic of the final panel discussion at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s annual planning conference.
Though some small disagreements arose, the consensus of the panel was expanding renewable energy on Delmarva needs to be a multi-faceted approach, using different technologies where they fit the best.
“I think a mistake we make is picking winners and losers. It’s not one silver bullet,” said Ernie Shea, president of Solutions From the Land. “There’s a lot of multiple wins here if we just think outside of the box and think about a new energy future.”
Solar and wind energy dominated much of the discussion, moderated by public radio host, Marc Steiner, but geothermal projects and capturing energy from poultry litter also came up and the four speakers also agreed that success in expanding renewable energy would be based in locally-distributed, decentralized systems, much different from the power grid based around fossil fuels that still makes up most of the energy generation now.
Most important, Shea said, is future projects have to be sustainable on many levels.
“They have to be economically viable, they have be environmentally sound and they need to be socially acceptable,” he said. “And it takes a conversation. It takes a lot of collaboration to move from an old energy world to a new energy world.”
It also takes policy changes, either at the state or federal level, to make investing in renewable energy more attractive, panelists said.
Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said there were only a handful of solar panel installers in Maryland in 2004 when the state created its clean energy standard and began incentivizing projects.
“Now there are more jobs in the solar industry than the crab industry in Maryland and that’s in the last 10 years,” he said. “It is happening and it’s policy that’s driving it. Policy is leading the way in Maryland and the companies are responding.”
Policy can be changed to remove barriers for companies and residents to invest as well, Shea said.
Improving access to the power grid and net metering regulations were two examples.
“There’s a lot of granular fine tuning adjustments that can be made to remove these barriers because the economics are quickly showing that without these barriers, these renewable energies can be scaled up,” Shea said.
Rebecca Rush, managing partner of DERP Technologies, a Hagerstown, Md.-based consulting firm, said she expects more investment in solar, wind and other renewable energies to increase because they can get up and running faster than the generation plants in a centralized power grid.
“I think that the movement toward distributed generation is something that more and more investors are going to be interested in being a part of,” Rush said.
Shea said the energy solutions from bioenergy, namely poultry litter shouldn’t be overlooked.
As an organizer of the Delmarva Land and Litter Challenge, a coalition of agriculture groups focused on the goal of fixing manure related water quality issues by 2025, Shea said alternative uses for poultry litter will play a factor, including using litter for generating electricity and for heating poultry houses.
Tidwell said the public’s energy literacy has increased drastically in the last 15 years, which helps foster more conversation and policy changes.
“The very conversation is light years from what it was before. I think we just need to accelerate the conversation and bring it to reality,” he said.
Portions of the discussion are scheduled to air on the Marc Steiner Show on WEAA 88.9 on Thursday, Dec. 3.