Solar Energy Can Benefit Pennsylvania Farms

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Darren Youker, Director of State Government Affairs for Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, recently noted that “… solar energy [can] … be beneficial to Pennsylvania farms, through predictable lease payments.” Lease arrangements allow PA farm families to secure a new, steady source of monthly income, without incurring the costs of development on their land.”

The Farm Bureau has also championed the role of proposed Community Solar legislation to allow for more lease agreements, and creative financing options, as they noted in their 2019 PA Senate testimony: 

“We can see agriculture playing a key role in the development of community solar projects…. Community solar would allow multiple landowners to pay for, and receive credit from, a group project. We believe that Pennsylvania should open the door for community solar energy generation and give landowners the ability to participate in these projects if they so choose. We are calling on lawmakers to pass [Community Solar] so that more solar energy projects can get off the ground in Pennsylvania.”

“By increasing access and leverage for development, Community Solar would democratize the ability to ‘go solar’ for all of our Pennsylvania citizens.”

John Lehman

A recent Penn State report found that if passed, Community Solar would bring nearly $2 billion in new private sector investments into Pennsylvania. As PennCEF Leadership Council member, former Reagan Administration Navy Secretary and 9-11 Commission Member Dr. John Lehman wrote in The Patriot News:

“The advantages of allowing groups of citizens to come together and complete a new solar project are many. It would be much easier to install solar arrays. Currently, the rule in Pennsylvania is ‘one property, one solar project,’ but the cost is often too high for individual farmers or residents to develop a project on their own. Under the legislation, however, individuals could band together to finance each project. So, in the farming context, if one farmer has a ridgeline otherwise unusable for growing crops, he or she could form a community solar organization with a group of neighboring farmers. Collectively, they could get a loan for development … and invest in their future as farmers.

This example can be applied proportionally in the business and residential property contexts. By increasing access and leverage for development, Community Solar would democratize the ability to ‘go solar’ for all of our Pennsylvania citizens.”

The crisis in PA agriculture, which was discussed prior to the pandemic, has only worsened since then. Millions of gallons of milk were dumped, due to the breakdown of supply lines. Dairy farms have born the brunt of this new economic reality, but farms in every major commodity across PA have been eligible for emergency federal assistance, totaling more than $200 million since February 2020. 

It is clear that the need facing Pennsylvania farmers is real. Solar electricity offers a lifeline.

There is no question that Community Solar would help farmers to diversify their profits and productivity, and take advantage of the unused open space on hillsides, on the roofs of barns, chicken houses and other structures.

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About author
Chad Forcey comes to PennCEF with considerable experience in the world of advocacy. Forcey served the Irrigation Association and the PA Landscape and Nursery Association. He was the personal aide to Governor Mark Sweiker during his tenure in Harrisburg. An articulate spokesperson and seasoned writer, he works to educate, advocate, and engage Pennsylvanians to transition to clean energy in ways that bring jobs to the Commonwealth, make sense economically, protect land rights and guard our national security.
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