Smart Solar Siting
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With the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, new federal tax incentives and aggressive state goals, the demand for solar energy is exploding. The rapid expansion creates opportunities for farmers and landowners, but also poses threats to farmland.
This new pressure compounds the severe “competition for land” and increases conflict—often delaying siting decisions and pitting land protection against renewable energy advocates. Research indicates that regions can meet significant portions of their ambitious solar energy goals using “developed and marginal” land or “least conflict” land. However, those preferred sites such as rooftops and brownfields will not be enough given the increased costs. Therefore, siting on “greenfields”—agricultural and forest lands—will be crucial.
Smart solar siting can accelerate renewable energy development while maintaining America’s most productive farmland and forestland by guiding solar development onto land where it has the least negative impact on agriculture and the environment.
And new “dual use” projects demonstrate that certain solar generation can be compatible with continued farming such as rotational grazing and some crop/vegetable production, which take little or no land out of production.
AFT’s Smart Solar Siting effort provides new resources to reduce conflicts over siting of solar facilities. These resources can help facilitate agreement among multi-stakeholders on smart solar siting principles, policies, and programs and how to build them into state policies and local planning.
AFT projects significant threats to farmland from utility-scale solar projects and estimates the portion of solar generation targets that could be satisfied on developed or marginal land. We also conduct research into dual-use solar arrays that maintain agricultural production on the same land, under or around the solar installation itself.
Advance Policy Solutions
AFT and its partners develop policy analyses, solar siting case studies, land use research, and evaluations of equity impacts of solar project siting. Our other efforts include developing standards for “dual-use” that allow for solar arrays and agriculture to operate simultaneously on the same parcel.
AFT brings together agricultural, energy, environmental and other interests to advance smart solar siting policies and programs. We also are exploring a third-party certification program for dual-use and other key solar best management practices for ground mounted solar arrays on farms.
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