Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Takeaways From PA State Grange Program On Solar Energy Generation And Farming

By Wayne Campbell, President
PA State Grange

At the 2022 PA Farm Show, the Pennsylvania State Grange presented an informative program on solar energy generation as it relates to farming.  

The panel presented thought-provoking insights on whether or not factory-scale production of solar energy can coexist with production farming.

Enhancing use of alternative energy is a positive goal for this General Assembly to pursue.  Solar energy is a prime example of energy generation with less of a climate footprint.  

However, the Pennsylvania State Grange urges the General Assembly to develop a framework for this mass-produced alternative energy. 

We believe that Pennsylvania should not pick winners and losers.  Our state is blessed with multiple sources of energy.  

Increasing energy output from solar energy generation should not put people out of work who have jobs with fossil fuels and natural gas extraction as these industries are huge economic drivers in Pennsylvania and should also be encouraged.  

Legislators should not pick sides and suggest that there is only one energy solution worth pursuing. 

If the COVID Pandemic taught us nothing else, it certainly reminded us to not put all our eggs in one basket. The food shortages during the last two years stand as a testimony to that!

Given growing interest by energy companies to “harvest” solar energy from farms, we urge the General Assembly to be out in front on this issue before the regulatory environment becomes a confusing and a conflicting minefield.  

The first question is who regulates large-scale solar energy development.  Is it the Public Utility Commission?  Is it the Federal Government?  Is it local zoning?  

Should the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Environmental Protection have some say over approvals for these massive solar energy factories?  Investors and farmers need clarity because regulatory uncertainty can doom a project.

The second question and possibly the most important is how to decide where to put these facilities.

 Currently it seems that energy companies prefer to develop farmland as this is usually flat or gentle sloping land that makes it more cost-effective. 

The problem comes with the threat of the loss of productive farmland from what is in essence a solar energy factory. Pennsylvania is the nation’s leader in farmland protection and preservation.  

The DEP Growing Greener Program and Farm Preservation in PA has kept farmland safe from commercial or residential development for many years.  These success stories must not be compromised by trading food security for energy security.  

The General Assembly will have to decide how we can have both.

The Pennsylvania State Grange suggests having energy companies document why reclaimed mine land or brownfields cannot be used instead of farmland. 

Secondly, we feel installations should not take farmland out of production unless another type of agriculture (grazing or specialty crops) can still take place.  

Lastly solar energy facilities should be installed in areas verified by conservation districts as not adding pollution to our streams. 

A few other questions we feel also must be addressed are whether farm-generated solar energy can be shared with surrounding communities or be bypassed.  

Will there be indemnification for removing the solar installation if the energy company becomes insolvent?

During our panel discussion at the Farm Show, it was disclosed there are approximately 420 possible solar farm projects being proposed in Pennsylvania right now, which would take roughly 80,000 acres of land to construct. 

While solar energy has the potential to be an alternative energy generation, it is important to carefully consider how its use of solar facilities can hurt Pennsylvania’s agricultural heritage.

Click Here to watch a video of the program.

For more information on programs, initiatives, upcoming events and how you can get involved, visit the PA State Grange website.

(Photo: Penn State solar farm in Franklin County.)


-- YorkDR: Residents Throw Shade At Dover Solar Project, But Solar Farms Are Cropping Up Across York County

Related Article:

-- PA Conservative Energy Forum Supports Solar Energy Development As Economic Driver And Benefit To Landowners

-- Guest Essay: Solar Means Business In America: Here’s What That Looks Like In Pennsylvania

-- Gov. Wolf Announces Major Commitment To Solar Energy To Supply Nearly 50% Of State Government's Electricity Needs

[Posted: February 16, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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