Farmland and Solar Development
Recently-enacted legislation encourages a significant increase in solar development in Maine on an expedited timeline. As a result, solar developers are racing to secure potential sites for solar installations, including on agricultural land near transmission infrastructure. MFT supports renewable energy production on farms as long as it does not significantly diminish the potential for agricultural production. On-site energy production can support the economic viability of a farm operation, reduce energy costs, and is important for addressing climate change. However, solar development in the state should not result in the loss of important agricultural lands or impede the ability of farmers to access land. MFT believes solar generation and agriculture can co-exist in Maine in a mutually beneficial manner as long as solar siting is structured to ensure the appropriate balance of these important interests.
To ensure that balance, MFT staff developed our own solar siting guidelines that have helped to inform the work of an external Solar Siting Working Group composed of solar developers, and agricultural and environmental organizations. The Working Group is focused on ensuring positive solar siting efforts in Maine through the creation of educational resources, siting guidance materials, and methods of promoting well-sited projects. MFT also created an information sheet that outlines important considerations and issues for farmers and farmland owners who are considering leasing land for solar development.
Research efforts underway for the Natural Climate Solutions Initiative
In recent years, land-based natural climate solutions have emerged as an important strategy to increase climate change resilience on farms and in our communities, while also improving farm profitability. Natural climate solutions include farmland protection, healthy soils practices, and other land management practices that increase carbon storage, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and improve water quality. Natural climate solutions can be adopted by farmers with operations of all sizes and production methods and can contribute to the financial viability of a farm, helping to both increase yields and save money over time.
MFT is leading the Maine Climate Table’s Natural Climate Solutions Initiative (NCSI), in collaboration with the University of Maine, American Farmland Trust, Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, and other partners. The NCSI will analyze the benefits, barriers, and opportunities associated with wide-scale adoption of natural climate solutions by farmers in Maine. This research will continue through next year and will be presented to and inform the work of the Maine Climate Council’s Natural and Working Lands Working Group, which includes MFT’s Policy and Research Director, Ellen Stern Griswold.