Agricultural Solar

Agriculture and Solar Energy Development in Massachusetts: A Thesis

Graduate student, Kathleen D. Nay is working towards her master’s in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University.

For her thesis, Nay decided to focus on the potential conflicts and synergies of both preserving farmland for agricultural use and utilizing the land for solar development.

View the memorandum and full thesis by clicking on the buttons below.

Massachusetts is both striving towards a strong agricultural economy in the region and fulfilling their commitment to the SMART program.

Solar Panels in MassachusettsNay’s thesis takes a look into the future of Massachusetts and how it’s green initiative can not only nourish the growth of the solar industry, but those same renewables can then help with farming.

This dual use of land holds many benefits for solar developers, farmers, and in general, the communities they inhabit.

Nay urges that though it may seem as though the two projects—farming and solar development—may seem like they’re competing for the same land, that is truly not the case.

Solar development does have the ability to expand farmland

By developing solar arrays that, structurally, could allow for agricultural use of the land as well, this renewable energy could enhance the success and viability of farm business and help to increase the number of acres in farming across Massachusetts.

Read Nay’s memorandum for a brief overview of her research conducted to discern the conflicts and synergies of these two compatible uses of land.

Then we urge you to read her thesis submitted to Tuft University, where you can learn more about the farmers and solar developers that she was able to speak with in Massachusetts.

We at Pope Energy, were lucky enough have the opportunity to speak with Nay and give our thoughts on not only preserving farmland through solar development but expanding it.

MEMORANDUM          THESIS

The Benefits of Agricultural Solar

Agricultural Solar is a term used to describe the dual-use of land combining solar photovoltaic renewable electricity generation with the continued use of the land for farming purposes.

Continue farming efficiently

Solar RackingHaving a solar generation plant on the property will often enable farmers to remain farming their land due to the increased land lease revenue received by the farmer. Whereas without that land lease revenue generated from the solar array, the economics of farming may not justify continued operations.

In the instance of land succession through inheritance, the presence of a land lease revenue from a long-term solar contract may allow continuous farming of the land by one family member allowing other members to receive their proportionate share of value from the land through land lease revenue.

An increase in revenue

According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), there are 7,755 farms in the state across 523,000 acres resulting in $492 million in agricultural products.  The average farm produces $63,470 of agricultural products on 68 acres of land. Having a solar farm on that same property could double the revenue from farm operations with no cost to the farmer.

A sense of security and economic boost

Have you ever gone for a walk and seen stonewalls running through the woods?

That land was once a farm.

Using the economics and long-term operations of solar electric generation, land that was once farm land, then returned to woods can now be returned to farm land growing crops locally, adding to food security and jobs to the economy.

If you own a farm, are a member of a farm family or would like to farm land but do not have the resources to acquire additional land, please contact Pope Energy at 855-767-3363 or doug.pope@popeenergy.com.