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Solar Bill Good For Farms

Solar Bill good for Farms

Legislature will attempt to override Governor’s veto

There’s been a lot of talk about the “solar bill,” LD 1649, An Act To Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development.

This is one of the bills Governor Le Page vetoed, and the Legislature will likely attempt to override it on Friday.

What a lot of people don’t know is that this bill contains two provisions relating to agriculture, one which is designed to ensure that solar development doesn’t come at the expense of farmland, and another which makes it easier for farmers to benefit from solar development. (More detail is provided below.)

MFT was actively involved in shaping this legislation, and we feel that the bill is good for farms.   You can help ensure that this bill will become law by contacting your state senator and state representative before Friday’s override vote.  Click here to find your legislators and their contact information, and for information about who voted for the bill when the Legislature originally passed it, click here for the official roll calls:   House and Senate.  (NOTE: The roll call in the Senate is the first vote on the bill, before an amendment was added. The bill in its final form was passed “under the hammer,” without another roll call.  It’s likely that some Senators, who voted against the bill initially, are supportive of the final bill; but without a roll call on the final vote, we don’t know for sure how each Senator feels.)

If your legislators supported this bill before, please contact them to thank them for their prior vote and urge them to also vote to override the governor’s veto.

If your legislators did not support this bill before, please contact them and let them know that, as someone who cares about solar power and about farming, your strongly urge them to change their position and help override the governor’s veto.

In summary, here are the two main ways this bill will impact farmers/agriculture:

  • Solar array siting is encouraged on brownfields but not prohibited on greenfields (potentially productive farmland). This means that, if at some point in time it may be desirable for a farmer/landowner to have the option to install an array on their land, this bill would not prevent them from doing so. However, the DACF would be tasked with developing strategies to ensure that any siting on “prime farmland” or “farmland of statewide importance” be done in a way that does not remove topsoil or otherwise impair the suitability of land for future agricultural use. These protections would only apply to larger scale solar installations, but not to solar done at the personal level or for a small business using power on-site, such as a farm.
  • In addition, LD 1649 sets aside some of the solar capacity that can be licensed under this bill to farms: 8 megawatts would be reserved for those who own agricultural businesses in Maine.
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