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AFT’s Pacific Northwest Region Announces Workshops and Guidebook for Solar Leasing 

Beginning in the fall of 2022, American Farmland Trust’s Pacific Northwest team will offer a series of virtual and in-person workshops designed to help farmland and ranchland owners understand the emerging solar development field and its potential to impact agricultural land.

Large-scale solar leasing projects are projected to grow in the Pacific Northwest, with developments proposed in counties throughout Oregon and Washington. According to the US Department of Energy Solar Futures study, by 2050, 90 percent of solar energy will come from utility-scale projects in rural communities. These proposed solar developments are part of a larger regional effort to meet clean energy goals set by state governments.

Agricultural land is often sought after for solar installations because it’s typically undeveloped, flat, treeless and close to transmission infrastructure.  As a result, solar leases can present a compelling financial opportunity for farmers and ranchers, yet they can also carry significant risks. Solar leases can last upwards of 30 years and can be difficult for landowners to back out of. Solar installations can have significant impacts on the land, including soil compaction and disturbance, which can limit future agricultural production. They also have potential to impact surrounding lands and communities, including interrupting wildlife corridors and viewsheds. Additional risks for farmland owners include liability insurance, loss of water rights and impacts to succession planning.

By helping landowners understand the full array of these risks and equipping them with the tools and skills to evaluate whether solar leases are right for them, these workshops will prepare landowners to make informed decisions, anticipate production losses and avoid costly legal conflicts. Partnering with AFT on this project is Farm Commons, a non-profit that offers legal workshops and resources for farmers, ranchers and service providers. Farm Commons will provide legal expertise for the guidebook and workshops. Their contributions will support workshop participants in reading and understanding the long-term leases that are a part of on-site energy development. Additional technical support for the guidebook comes from Oregon State University’s (OSU) Nexus of Energy, Water and Agriculture Laboratory, who will advise on components of the guidebook and curriculum that address dual-use solar installations.

“Solar energy development is accelerating rapidly in our region, and what we’re seeing is that farmland and rangeland owners are on the frontlines of this trend,” says Addie Candib, AFT Pacific Northwest Regional Director. “Many communities are wrestling with the question of whether – and where – solar should be built, but at some point, it will be up to the individual landowner to decide what’s in the long-term best interests for their business and their families. That’s what this project is about – helping farmers and ranchers to make informed decisions about the future of their land.”

Questions about this effort can be sent to Chantel Welch, PNW Project Manager (cwelch@farmland.org). The Solar Leasing Guidebook and Workshops will be available to the public starting in the fall of 2022.

This project is supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28587.

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American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families. 

About the Author
Chantel Welch

Pacific Northwest Project Manager

cwelch@farmland.org

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