Solar developers need land where they can install solar panels. And many farmers are looking for new ways to make money from their land, especially as they approach the end of their careers.
Charles Gould is an energy educator with Michigan State University Extension. In his state, about a third of farmers are 65 or older.
“And they want to retire,” he says. “They’ve worked hard all their lives, and the profit margins for agriculture have been so thin.”
He says fewer young people are taking over their family farms, so older farmers often consider selling their land to housing or commercial developers.
But leasing acreage for solar installations has become an alternative source of annual income.
“When farmers are approached with a lease agreement that can pay – depending on how close you are to the power substation – $1,200 to $500 an acre, that’s very attractive.”
What’s more, Michigan farmers can earn tax breaks for keeping land preserved as open space. That can include land leased for solar, as long as it meets certain conservation standards.
So Gould says growing solar can be a way for farmers to continue making money from their land while preserving it for future generations.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.