Growing Renewable Energy while Strengthening Farm Viability and Protecting Healthy Soil
The Department of Energy estimates we need more than 10 million acres to scale up solar energy by 2050, and AFT projects over 80 percent could be sited on agricultural lands. This growth will create opportunities, but it also threatens farmland, and the conflict between using land to grow food and using it to produce energy is already generating public backlash against renewable energy deployment overall. America needs both—renewable energy and productive, resilient farms and ranches. Smart Solar℠ can be the solution.
What is Smart Solar?
Smart Solar refers to solar projects that meet three main, equally important goals: (1) accelerating solar energy development, (2) strengthening farm viability, and (3) safeguarding land well-suited for farming and ranching.
Significantly more renewable energy, including solar, is needed in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat the climate crisis. Farmers and ranchers need this transition to combat climate change and minimize future impacts from droughts, floods, extreme heat, and beyond.
Smart solar guides solar development to where it has the least negative impact on land well suited for farming, ensures that agricultural land where projects are sited can be farmed in the future, and promotes “agrivoltaics” solar projects to create opportunities for both farming and solar energy on the same land.
If done well, Smart Solar projects can provide income for farmers and landowners and protect land well-suited for agriculture.
Smart Solar Principles
American Farmland Trust has developed Smart Solar principles to help shape solar development across America. These principles can be applied broadly recognizing that Smart Solar will look different across the country due to differences in landscapes, agricultural production systems, and other characteristics.