Can CT’s Farmers Farm Solar Power?

Posted on Posted in Consumer Advocacy, Deregulated Electricity, Green/Renewable Energy, Uncategorized
Will restricting the growth of Connecticut solar farms do more harm to farmers and consumers?

Last month, Connecticut lawmakers heard testimony on Senate Bill 412 got a peak into the state’s future energy problems where conservation and land use issues intersects with the need for farmers need to make enough money to stay in business and the need for cheap solar electricity in Danbury, Mansfield, or Hamden.

Proposed Senate Bill 412 is “an act restricting the use of incentives for the development of solar arrays on agricultural land.” While at first blush it sounds like a cautious measure to slow down development, the bill’s current wording puts pits conservationists against developers of pollution-free solar energy and many of the state’s farmers. Many conservationists see a growing threat to productive farmland and ecologically sensitive forests being converted over to utility scale solar farms. By taking valuable farmland out of production in favor of building utility solar energy production, this will not only change the character historic preservation of many Connecticut rural towns and villages but also potentially threaten endangered and threaten species.

Farmers, meanwhile, want on-site energy deployment to offset their farming energy usage and as a way to make extra money. Developers also counter that solar farms are far cheaper to convert back to agriculture use. Arrays are built at ground surface, so valuable topsoil is left in place. Unlike other power generation plants or suburban subdivisions, solar arrays don’t require underground sewer or water connections.

Testimony supporting and opposing the bill came from diverse interests:

What is certain here is that as Connecticut develops its renewable energy capabilities, lawmakers will need to entertain more innovative ideas that conserve natural resources while encouraging the environmentally-friendly energy generation that also helps protect those resources. To be sure, this wasn’t the final legislative skirmish. While no further movement on the bill seems pending, it’s likely that all those concerned are watching how DEEP handles further rural solar permitting and development.

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