Last month, the LANDTHINK Pulse posed the following question to our audience: Do you support using fertile land for producing renewable energy (wind turbines/solar panels) instead of growing crops?
Our informal online survey revealed that 66.22% of respondents believe that prime farmland being put into renewable energy is not the best use of the land. An emerging renewable energy industry has ushered in the development of massive solar farms and utility-scale wind turbine projects all across the country. Farmland makes an ideal site for both solar panels and wind turbines; it offers hundreds of acres of cleared land, that most large-scale projects require.
Farmers facing financial difficulties surmount the low commodity prices and lingering drought by leasing their land to utility companies for sustainable power alternatives. Leasing fertile cropland to solar companies and wind developers can bring in enough revenue to keep the farm in the family, a better alternative than selling the property to developers.
Renewable energy companies offer top-dollar per acre rent. Since the energy can be harvested forever, it’s a steady stream of income for farmers that is not influenced by commodity prices. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind power pays landowners $245 million in lease payments every year. Solar farms can lease land at prices ranging from $400-$1200 per acre, depending on location and site characteristics for the land.
The LANDTHINK audience strongly expressed their opinion on the use of productive agricultural land for generating energy instead of growing crops. The majority of our audience, 66.22% of respondents, said “NO”, saying they DO NOT support using fertile land for energy projects. Only 33.78% answered “YES”, saying they DO support the installation of such energy projects on cropland.
As our survey revealed, the majority of the public and many policy makers oppose installing energy farms on fertile farmland, convinced that it will forever ruin the productivity of the land. Herbicides used to control the weeds under solar panels, the extensive land moving and excavation required to cut-in roads and install wind turbines, coupled with the loss of the farmland itself and eventually businesses supporting the agricultural industry (seed, chemical, equipment dealers) are a few reasons why placing renewable energy farms on fertile farmland is viewed unfavorably.
Some people may ask “Why not grow crops and install renewable energy projects on the same parcel of land?” Often, farmers do supplement income by installing solar panels on a portion of their farmland. Currently, there are some conflicting reports as to whether or not crops can be grown successfully underneath wind turbines. Data has shown that turbulence, along with shade thrown from the turbine, can alter the weather in their immediate vicinity – influencing temperature, humidity and precipitation- all which affect growing and soil conditions underneath. The turbines also make aerial crop spraying difficult, if not impossible.
Here are the final results:
- 66.22% said NO, they DO NOT support using fertile land for producing renewable energy
- 33.78% said YES, they DO support using fertile land for producing renewable energy
Thank you to everyone who participated and shared the Pulse with friends and connections in the land industry.
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