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American Farmland Trust wants solar to be smart

American Farmland Trust has created Smart Solar principles to help farmers and developers to navigate the best areas to adopt the technology.

Smart Solar director Ethan Winter tells Brownfield site should first use buildings and degraded lands to reduce competition with farmland.

“And safeguard the land that we’re using for agriculture and for solar,” he shares.  “For example, making sure there are good practices for the construction of these solar projects if they are occurring on farmland so that when these sites are decommissioned, that land can be used for agriculture in the future.”

Winters says solar developments should be designed intentionally so that agricultural goods can still be produced.

“It does appear that there are some synergies between the solar panels and growing conditions if you design with intention,” he says.

Joel Tatum, the Midwest solar specialist, points to Illinois which incentivizes projects using agrivoltaics, or using land for solar and production agriculture.

“Things are different, crops are different in different states, and so, along with the policy, the need for solar is different in different states,” he explains.

And, they say the decision also needs to be equitable and support farm viability.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates about 10 million acres of land in the next 25 years will be needed for solar energy to meet climate goals, with 90 percent of it coming from rural areas.

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