‘Shining a light on agricultural solar energy development’ | Michigan Farm News

‘Shining a light on agricultural solar energy development’

Category: Politics

by M. Charles Gould, MSU Extension Educator; Farm News Media

Solar-Panel_MFN_2.4.19
MSU Extension staff with lease agreement, tax, and zoning expertise will provide the educational content. Farmers who participate in the programs will leave with valuable, practical knowledge they can use to determine if a solar lease agreement is a sound decision.

Higher rates offered by utilities to commercial solar companies required under Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) in 2017, combined with the declining cost of solar development, has created the potential for large-scale utility-scale solar projects to be profitable in the state, according to Matt Kapp, government relations specialist for Michigan Farm Bureau.

PURPA, which was originally passed in the 1970s, was designed to encourage energy conservation and support domestic renewable energy such as solar. Under the federal law, utility are required to buy energy from renewable generators as long as they do not have to pay more than it costs to generate the power themselves, also known as “avoided cost. “

“The higher rates, along with declining costs of solar panels and advancements in solar energy technology, has improved the balance sheet for new solar energy projects in Michigan,” Kapp said. “But it has also opened the door to questions from farmers and other landowners who have been approached to consider long-term leases for these solar farm projects.”

In an effort to help farmers understand the renewable energy landscape, nuances of solar leases, zoning considerations, and accompanying tax implications, MSU Extension and Michigan Farm Bureau are holding programs for farmers at four locations around the state.

Kapp says the meetings are targeted to farmers, landowners, agribusiness owners, interested citizens, public officials, and renewable energy representatives, as well.

MSU Extension staff with lease agreement, tax, and zoning expertise will provide the educational content. Farmers who participate in the programs will leave with valuable, practical knowledge they can use to determine if a solar lease agreement is a sound decision for themselves and their community.

The meeting series will cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • The context for solar energy development on Michigan farmland
  • A community vision for solar energy systems
  • Zoning approaches for solar energy
  • Siting considerations for utility-scale solar
  • Integrating solar with existing ag systems
  • Understanding solar energy lease agreements
  • Taxation guidance including the impact on PA 116

Meetings are scheduled across Michigan on the following dates and locations:

  • March 14

Quality Inn-Forward Conference Center

2980 Cook Rd., West Branch, MI 48661

  • March 19

Fillmore Government Complex-Main Conference Room

12220 Fillmore St, West Olive, MI 49460

  • March 28

AgroLiquid Conference Center

3055 W M-21, St. Johns, MI 48879

  • April 10

Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center

E3774 University Dr., Chatham, MI 49816

All programs run from 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. with doors opening at 9:30 a.m.

To register for a meeting or for further information, visit https://events.anr.msu.edu/shining/. Preregistration is required. Registration will be accepted up to two days prior to the meeting you want to attend. Registration will not be available onsite.

The registration fee is $20 per person. Michigan Farm Bureau and the Michigan Energy Office have provided additional financial support for the meetings.

If you have questions about the agriculture solar leasing meetings or would like more information on energy efficiency practices or renewable energy projects, feel free to contact Charles Gould at 616-994-4547 or [email protected].