Solar pier plan hits regulatory reef
A Glen Burnie man with a passion for solar has found there are limits to where he can catch the sun's rays.
As I reported today in The Baltimore Sun, the Maryland Department of the Environment has rejected Robert Bruninga's application for a wetland permit so he can build a floating pier in Marley Creek and lay photovoltaic panels on it.
Bruninga, a self-described "born-again solar junkie," intended to deploy 8 kilowatts' worth of panels on the pier and on a boat he planned to build and tie up there. He figures that would be enough - when the sun is shining - to offset the electricity his household uses. He wants to put them on a pier because the tall trees on his lot shade his roof and almost all of his yard, undermining the potential for generating power on land.
But the state said nope, citing regulations that require all structures built out over the water to be "water-dependent." MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said that state officials are reviewing the regulations to see if any changes might be warranted to allow the kinds of project Bruninga wants to build, but for now they have to enforce the rules as they are. They're meant to protect the state's waters from landside encroachment - building houses, restaurants and the like out over the water.
Bruninga, senior engineer in the satellite laboratory at the Naval Academy, doesn't blame the bureaucrats for turning down his bright idea. He says he understands the need to limit what goes on piers, but he's hoping they'll find a way to make an exception for it in the future.
Meanwhile, he'll keep driving his solar-enhanced plug-in Prius and touting the benefits of solar to all who'll listen. He's put together a Web site detailing his solar "conversion" and his pier plan, which you can see here.
(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)