Future Connecticut Farms May Not Be FarmingFebruary 22, 2017
It’s no secret that farm land is an ideal place for renewable energy development
Once again, Connecticut’s farm communities are threatened by energy development. Right now, farmland is being converted for renewable energy projects, like solar. It’s no secret that farm land is an ideal place for renewable energy development:
But it turns out farmland especially, and forestland to a lesser degree, make ideal places to site commercial solar farms, which can eat up hundreds of acres. Farmland is clear, well-drained, usually large, often south-facing – just what solar needs. For all those reasons it also tends to be less expensive for solar developers, who are often competing for government incentives that are largely awarded based on the lowest cost.
For struggling Connecticut family farms, the income from energy development can be very attractive:
Without the income he now gets from leasing his field so it can generate two megawatts of renewable power for a nearby town, “I’d be done,” he said. “There’d be eight houses on this piece. I have to do something with my land if I want to survive.” Farms around Connecticut are facing the same choice Sullivan did. The result is a growing – pun intended – controversy over siting solar on farm and forestland. It’s pitting farmer against farmer and environmental interest groups against one another, putting state departments at odds, and raising the always explosive issue of private property rights versus state policy
The Connecticut State Council on Environmental Quality released a February report critical of Energy Sprawl in Connecticut, outlining the environmental impact current laws hold for Connecticut’s farmlands, saying:
Not all solar installations yield equal benefits. Solar panels on commercial rooftops, industrial lands and old landfills can be sustainable home runs. Unfortunately, Connecticut adopted laws and policies that encourage utility-scale solar photovoltaic facilities* to be developed on farmland and forest land. Connecticut was, and still is, unprepared to guide the placement of solar facilities to minimize their environmental damage
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, national environmentalists have been vocal opponents of expanding solar panels on federal lands, because of the environmental impact. Taking fertile private farm land out of production to “harvest sunshine” seems to be the latest unintended consequence of a government-sponsored boom solar industry.
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