American Farmland Trust, Edelen Renewables and Arcadia have announced a partnership called Farmers Powering Communities to combat climate change through solar energy development while protecting America’s farmland and ranchland for growing food, fuel and fiber. The partnership provides more farmers with the opportunity for a new revenue stream and brings renewable energy to communities where it has not yet been available.
Farmers Powering Communities will advance community solar projects of 25 to 50 acres to provide green energy to those who do not have access to rooftop solar — connecting them with local solar farms and bringing resiliency to more Americans. The partnership will identify the best land for new solar farms, establish installations and link them to local energy providers who will provide the power to residents at costs lower than the market average. Together, the partners will work to create 500 MW of community solar capacity in five years.
AFT’s Smart Solar principles will guide the location of development to ensure that it prioritizes solar siting within the built environment (rooftops, carports, irrigation ditches), on disturbed and contaminated lands (brownfields, landfills, reclaimed mining lands), and lastly, on marginal agricultural land instead of prime farmland. Where solar development occurs on good farmland, the installation should be agrivoltaic — or dual-use — allowing farming or ranching to continue in concert with solar energy production. As the industry builds new solar, it’s critical not to harm agricultural systems, which themselves help combat climate change by sequestering carbon.
“Farmers are on the frontlines of climate change, experiencing extreme weather events that impact their crops, livestock and livelihoods,” said John Piotti, AFT president and CEO. “We also know that farms can be part of the solution to the climate crisis. Farmland can draw carbon from the air to rebuild soil when farmed using climate-smart practices like cover crops and reduced tillage. We need to dramatically ramp up solar energy production while retaining our farms and ranches. That’s what this partnership is all about. Doing solar the right way and putting it in the right place is what we call Smart Solar.”
Development will begin in 2023 across a number of states that have active community solar programs, including ME, MA, RI, NY, NJ, DE, MD, DC, VA, IL, MN, CO, NM and OR. The partnership will also accelerate community solar access across the country through state and federal policy advocacy.
News item from American Farmland Trust