Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Supports Community Solar Legislation to Help Create Income for Commonwealth
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
This article was originally published on lancasteronline.com.
These projects connect those who cannot install solar energy on their own properties because their roof cannot accommodate panels; renters who cannot make property adjustments; or those not wanting to maintain their own system for renewable, homegrown energy.
Farmers have the land, barn roofs and range of spaces suited to host larger-scale solar energy installations that multiple people and entities can benefit from through community solar arrangements.
Our farmers can play a critical role in hosting these projects. The leases will provide an immediate additional source of income to help them weather the current economic crisis and make long-term investments in their farms.
These projects can provide an immediate shot in the arm to farmers as soon as enabling legislation is passed and projects can commence. Many already have leases signed and are just waiting for the state to act so they can get underway.
The opportunity to earn income by leasing farm space to solar projects will allow farmers to maintain their own independence while also promoting energy independence, with power generated right in the local community.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau supports HB 531 and SB 705 not only because of the economic boost they will provide to farmers, but also because solar energy installations can be designed in innovative ways that are compatible with farming operations. Crops can be placed under and around panels; animals can graze around them; and pollinator-friendly plantings can be utilized in a way that creates a symbiotic relationship that supports agricultural operations.
Farmers are skilled in determining the best economic use of their property and agricultural land. The beauty of solar panels is that they can be removed once the infrastructure is no longer needed or useful, with no damage to the land.
This makes solar energy a versatile economic decision that also can help farmers plan crop rotations and sustainable land usage for the long term.
Community solar projects are the logical next step for Pennsylvania farmers, many of whom have already made the conscientious decision to use solar energy to save money on their own energy costs.
More than 4,100 Pennsylvania farms already use some form of renewable energy, with most of it (2,800 farms) coming from solar panels, according to the 2017 federal agricultural census.
As we seek solutions to support the farm families of Pennsylvania, our legislators should look to the one that is right in front of us. The time is now to move ahead and take action on community solar to support our farms and add power to our economy.
Darrin Youker is the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s director of state government affairs.