A Screening Tool for Renewable Energy Projects

Launch SmartDG+

User Guide  County Zoning Guide  Incentives

SmartDG+ is a free, online, map-based screening tool sponsored by MEA and PPRP. It is intended to help developers and officials identify promising areas for the location of new wind and solar projects in Maryland. The tool focuses on screening factors of relevance to large-scale projects (i.e. greater than 2 MW.)

In order to create SmartDG+, PPRP evaluated electrical lines throughout Maryland, gathered publicly available data on barriers to project construction, and met with county and utility officials to discuss local priorities and policies of relevance. Combining this information is intended to help everyone save time and make better decisions about where to focus further research.

Venn diagram of Infrastructure Proximity, Renewable Resource Availability and Land Suitability Infrastructure Proximity:

  • Electricity lines

Renewable Resource Availability:

  • Viable wind speeds (wind only)

Land Suitability:

  • Protected areas
  • Flood zones
  • Land cover/land use
  • Airports
  • DOD no-go zones
  • County zoning

The linchpin of SmartDG+ is a statewide map of 1-to-4 mile-wide corridors surrounding electrical distribution and transmission lines that appear strong enough to absorb large-scale projects. Within these corridors, the tool shows areas that remain promising after various standard screens involving resource availability, land use, protected areas, and more have been applied. The screening results are shown as technology-specific data layers: Possible Areas for SOLAR; and Possible Areas for WIND.

Viewers can choose additional screens such as:

  • County-level zoning (learn more)
  • County-level protected areas
  • NAS Patuxent River Protected Areas
  • MALPF easements
  • Forested lands

In order to ensure the accuracy of county-level information in SmartDG+, PPRP reaches out annually to county officials to confirm that all zoning information in the tool is accurate and up-to-date. For the 2019 update, several counties have yet to confirm that PPRP has up-to-date interpretations of zoning regulations: Baltimore City, Caroline County, Dorchester County, Frederick County, Montgomery County, St. Mary’s, and Washington County.

As previously mentioned, the information within SmartDG+ is meant to serve as an initial screening tool for developers. Additional research will be necessary before development can proceed. For an example, utilities must always be consulted to determine whether a specific project can safely and economically connect to the grid.

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