Through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York’s Renewable Energy goals have led to increased demand for land to site solar and wind projects, with farmland being a first-choice site for solar. American Farmland Trust is actively working to achieve smart solar siting on farmland in New York through research, stakeholder engagement, and by providing technical assistance to municipalities, land trusts, farmers, and developers. Smart solar siting supports farm operations, and maximizes renewable energy generation while minimizing impact on our best farmland.

Smart Solar Siting on Farmland: Achieving Climate Goals While Strengthening the Future for Farming in New York

American Farmland Trust’s report, “Smart Solar Siting on Farmland: Achieving Climate Goals while Strengthening the Future for Farming in New York,” details research findings and provides guidance to state and federal policymakers, farmers, solar developers, and local officials on how to expand solar energy generation while strengthening farmland protection and farm viability in New York state.

In 2021, AFT led a research project that convened an expert advisory group and surveyed and solicited feedback from hundreds of upstate farmers, land trusts, local officials, and other stakeholders, including New York’s solar industry in coordination with the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE-NY), to gain a clear picture of the impact solar development may have on farm communities throughout New York.

Key findings include:

  • AFT found broad concern stemming from significant large-scale solar development pressure in regions with abundant high quality farmland soils, including within the Mohawk Valley and the North Country.
  • Farmers were generally interested in hosting projects on only a portion of their farm and expressed a strong preference for siting solar projects generally to avoid prime farmland soils and actively farmed land.
  • Farmers interested in hosting solar projects are predominantly motivated by the income potential, as well as by opportunities to transition farms to the next generation, and to incorporate dual use solar (or “agrivoltaics”), in which projects are designed to support forage and/or crop production alongside energy generation.
  • Developers of both distributed generation and large-scale solar projects expressed interest in dual use and shared examples of the work they are doing to consider and integrate farming with solar arrays.
  • While solar provides income to individual landowners, only a minority of farmers who responded to the survey expected such development to have net positive impact on farm viability in their region.
  • For the 65 percent of upstate farmers who rent some or all of the land, there is concern over how to support their farm operations. More than half of farmer-renters surveyed reported negative impacts, including increased competition for land, higher lease rates for rented land, or loss of access to farmland. This is an especially challenging issue for dairy farmers.
  • Some survey respondents questioned whether, after the 25-50 year life of the project, farmland used for solar would be returned to active farming in future generations.

Find the full report with findings and recommendations here.

‘Combating Climate Change: Farming, Solar Energy, and the Future in New York,’ forum 2019

On Nov. 13, 2019, AFT held a forum in Riverhead, Long Island, to discuss ways to expand renewable energy generation, support farm businesses, and drive action in response to climate change. Below is a playlist of the presentations from the event. Click the button in the top right to browse through all the speeches.

 

‘Smart Solar Siting on Farmland in New York’ Report Resources: