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 the land base needed for their agricultural operations. 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 facilitate this balance, MFT recommends the following solar siting guidelines:
1. Where possible, avoid land identified by the Natural Resources Conservation Service as “Prime Farmland” or “Farmland of Statewide Importance,” or otherwise cause productive farmland to be taken out of production, including land leased for agricultural uses.
2. Preferentially use previously-developed, disturbed, degraded, or marginally productive portions of the farm property. This includes rooftops, land within and around farmstead areas, sand and gravel pits, and other areas with low utility for agricultural production.
3. Encourage dual-use projects, where agricultural production and electricity production from solar installations occur together on the same piece of land.
4. Build, operate, and decommission projects in ways that preserve the ability for the land to be farmed in the future and that do not inhibit access to or the productivity of farmland surrounding the solar installation.
5. Minimize the impacts of grid connection on the agricultural resources of the property.
6. Where applicable, projects should benefit the farm business directly by providing electricity to meet the energy needs (in whole or in part) of the farm.