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Best Week, Worst Week: Tech, education get boost with GRID; Anne Arundel solar farm industry dealt a blow

best-worst-120917The technology and education communities in the Baltimore area got a boost this week with the opening of the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Graduate Research Innovation District while the solar farm industry in Anne Arundel County was put on hold for eight months.

Higher education and technology writer Tim Curtis reported Thursday that university leaders see the new project at the University of Maryland BioPark as a catalyst for developing more student startups while also acting as a resource for the southwest Baltimore community.

The 6,200-square-foot building will also look to increase collaboration between the University of Maryland’s Baltimore and College Park campuses, a partnership formalized last year by the Maryland General Assembly.

Some of that partnership has taken the form of UM Ventures, which helps move research done at the university through the tech transfer process. With offices on both the Baltimore and College Park campuses, UM Ventures has accelerated the number of startups spun out of university technology. But so far, most of that has been focused on faculty research and innovation. With the GRID, the university hopes that it can bring more student-focused companies through the startup process.

Meanwhile, business writer Adam Bednar reported Monday that Anne Arundel County will not approve construction of utility grade solar farms in rural areas for at least eight months while the jurisdiction studies their potential impact on agricultural areas.

The moratorium follows the recommendation of the county’s Agriculture, Agritourism and Farming Commission, which has concerns about effects on the county’s rural areas.

Opponents of the move say it will adversely affect the pipeline of projects contributing to BGE’s Community Solar Pilot Program. There are five solar park projects proposed in Anne Arundel County, which represent about 20 percent of the pipeline for the program. They said that the delay is sending a signal the state is willing to lose economic development and clean energy projects to other parts of the country.

Support for the moratorium is coming from the Growth Action Network of Anne Arundel County, which requested it in November. In the announcement of the moratorium, the county argued that allowing industrial activity in rural lands reduces land use consistency and increases the likelihood of industrial land use encroachment into the county’s rural and agricultural areas.