Document Type

Policy Brief

Publication Date

Spring 2018

Abstract

Among policy issues, an area of contestation revolves around the use of agricultural land for solar farming. Solar energy offers a clean, renewable alternative to fossil fuels. Initiatives at both the state and federal levels have sought to develop clean energy sources. The 2014 US Farm Bill currently allocates $800 million, in part, for such endeavors (Borchers, Xiarchos, & Beckman, 2014). Tangentially, states have made efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Maine’s 38 MRSA §576 sets a medium-term bench mark, seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 (Maine Department of Environmental Protection, n.d). Concurrently, the state remains a party to the collaborative Regional Gas Initiative, a multi-state agreement to cut power plant emissions by 30% or more from 2020-2030 (Turkel, 2017). Lastly, Maine’s (2015) Comprehensive Energy Plan proposed incentives for residential and small commercial users of solar and wind power. Policy makers, however, are questioning the implications of diverting agricultural land to solar development. In short, what are the benefits to farmers, consumers, and the environment? What are the costs? Should Maine adopt a policy encouraging solar development on farm lands?

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