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Solar And Farmland Preservation

Our string of sunny days is the type of weather that fuels more discussion on solar power.

Here in Pennsylvania, the solar industry expansion is creating more questions for one of the state’s top farmland preservation programs.

In Centre County, more than a dozen entities, for several years, have been working on a proposed solar purchase power agreement.

“It’s a complicated arrangement that involves not only the developer of the solar array, but also the local infrastructure that would help with the transmission of electricity.”

Among the questions raised is, ‘will it mean the construction of a new solar panel grid in the county?’

“Right now, they’re looking at a couple sites that are within the local area.”

Solar power expansion is having a direct impact on farmland, and especially for farmers in the state’s clean and green program, which provides special tax assessment on land dedicated to agriculture. Thus, the solar grid issue is a hot topic.

“Do you get that question a lot, about clean and green and solar? We do, all the time, because folks want it both ways. They want preferential treatment, but also want to be a commercial enterprise. It was never designed to do that.”

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture talked about the farmers in clean and green programs wanting to use their land for solar grid development.

If it’s for personal use, it’s okay, but grids built on clean and green property for commercial use are not allowed or it could trigger tax rollbacks on the property.

“So, making sure we recognize that and hold true to the principles of clean and green, and why somebody is getting preferential tax treatment. Because we hear it from school districts all the time about reduced values accessed for preferential treatment versus public benefit. You can’t continue to make that case with solar.”

Pennsylvania leads the nation in farmland preservation programs, and a Penn State study is taking a deeper look into solar development and farming.

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