An increasing number of farms are adding solar power to their operations. The cost of solar has declined in recent years thanks to the popularity of the renewable energy source, enabling more solar across the country. Agricultural land has become a popular location for solar farms that provide renewable energy to communities and the farm itself.
The term solar farms refers to a large portion of land where solar panels are installed and used to feed electricity into local power grids. Unlike solar panels installed on roofs or in residential areas, solar farms can produce enough power for thousands of homes while generation no pollution.
A study published in Scientific Reports found that if less than 1 percent of the world’s farmland was converted to solar panels, the power generated could power the entire world.
Farmers have depended on the sun for crops since the beginning of time, adding a solar installation is a twenty-first century solution. The opportunity for farmers to lease their land for solar panels is one that benefits the landowners and community. Research conducted by Oregon State University found that farmlands are the most productive location for solar panels.
To place a solar farm on their land, farmers need a minimum of 2.5 acres of panels in areas getting high amounts of sunlight in order to produce one megawatt of electricity. Depending on location, one megawatt system requires 6 acres of land for 3,000 to 4,000 panels with an estimated cost of $3 million. Factors impacting this include landscape such as the number of trees and mountains blocking light, and seasonal differences. The lease pricing for an acre of land on a solar farm ranges from $300/acre to $2,000/acre. The average cost is around $500/acre in the southeast. Urban and more populated areas have a higher cost per acre due to the higher demand. Lease options vary, but most are for 30 years or more.
New York state has seen a 575 percent growth in solar farms since 2015 with the typical farm in the state having 10 to 30 acres. The state hopes to add more than 3GW of solar by 2023.
Interested landowners should contact their local utility company or electric co-op to see if solar is available in their area.