Farmland and Commercial Solar Development
On-site energy production can support farm viability and reduce energy costs, but we also want to ensure that solar development in the state does not result in the loss of important soils or impede farmers’ ability to access the land they need now and in the future. Solar energy generation and agriculture can co-exist in Maine in a mutually beneficial manner as long as solar development is sited in ways that minimize impacts to agricultural resources.
Recent Maine legislation encourages an increase in solar development. Solar developers are racing to secure potential sites for solar installations, including on undeveloped agricultural land. Developers are approaching farmers and offering payments for signing “option agreements” that give the developer the right to enter into a lease agreement with the landowner, and secure access to a farmer’s land.
MFT supports solar and renewable energy production on farms as long as it does not significantly diminish the potential for agriculture. On-site energy production can support farm viability and reduce energy costs, but we also want to ensure that solar development in the state does not result in the loss of important soils or impede farmers’ ability to access the land they need now and in the future. MFT also believes it is important for farmers to have access to the information and resources they need to make informed decisions about their land.
Farmers and farmland owners: Read this information sheet for a list of issues and considerations for landowners considering leasing land for solar development, or evaluating option and lease agreements. Please find solar siting guidelines HERE.
Municipal officials and community members: MFT is excited to share Balancing Solar Development and Farmland Protection: A Solar Siting Guide for Maine Towns, a new resource to support balanced solar siting in communities across Maine. This guide supports municipalities in the critical role they play in balancing these important interests. It offers general agricultural solar siting guidelines, compiles relevant provisions from solar ordinances that have been adopted by towns in Maine and New England, and takes a deeper dive into some of the different approaches that Maine communities are taking to support balanced solar siting at the local level. This guide is the result of insights and contributions from numerous municipal officials, farmers, partner organizations and other stakeholders. Download the solar siting guide here – and share it with your town officials! Contact Abby Farnham at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about the guide or to request printed copies.
MFT produced this resource in collaboration with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry as part of the Second Edition of Cultivating Maine’s Agricultural Future, a policy and planning guide for Maine municipalities.
Watch an informational forum: Maine Farmland Trust and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) hosted an informational forum in November 2022 for municipal officials to explore how towns can support solar development while minimizing impacts to valuable agricultural resources. A recording of that forum can be viewed here.
The recording includes a presentation with highlights from the new resource Maine Farmland Trust produced in collaboration with Maine DACF, “Balancing Solar Development & Farmland Protection: A Solar Siting Guide for Maine Towns.” Maine DACF provided additional state-level perspective on the issue of balanced solar siting, and representatives from the City of Auburn and the Town of Topsham joined us for a panel discussion and Q&A.