According to the Department of Energy, achieving the goal of a decarbonized electric sector by 2050 will require converting 10.4 million acres of land to solar energy generation, with 90% of that occurring in rural communities. Solar developers often favor farmland because it is flat, sunny, open, and near energy infrastructure. Recent AFT modeling revealed that without policy interventions, 83% of new solar energy development is likely to take place on farmland, with half of that on the nation’s best land for producing crops.
AFT strongly supports decarbonization efforts to combat climate change, and recognizes that solar development presents opportunities for some landowners to receive steady, long-term lease payments. But concerns must be addressed regarding prime farmland conversion, land affordability and availability, and the impact of large-scale solar development on rural livelihoods and landscapes which are slowing the transition to renewable energy.
AFT developed a framework to guide decision makers on how to implement a solar buildout that strengthens farm communities. These four smart solar principles are:
- Prioritize siting on the built environment and marginal land
- Safeguard the ability for land to be used for agriculture
- Grow agrivoltaics for agricultural production and solar energy
- Promote equity and farm viability