WASHINGTON – SEPT 27, 2022 – American Farmland Trust, Edelen Renewables and Arcadia today announced a partnership, Farmers Powering Communities, to combat climate change through solar energy development while protecting America’s farmland and ranchland for growing food, fuel and fiber. The partnership provides more farmers with the opportunity for a new revenue stream and brings renewable energy to communities where it has not yet been available.
Farmers Powering Communities will advance community solar projects of 25 to 50 acres to provide green energy to those who do not have access to rooftop solar – connecting them with local solar farms and bringing resiliency to more Americans. Increasing numbers of U.S. residents have installed rooftop solar on their property, but two-thirds of Americans cannot do so, either because they live in multi-family dwellings or because they rent their homes or because they cannot afford it. Community solar projects bridge the gap, connecting people to shared solar facilities. The partnership will identify the best land for new solar farms, establish installations and link them to local energy providers who will provide the power to residents at costs lower than the market average. Together, the partners will work to create 500 megawatts of community solar capacity in five years.
AFT’s Smart SolarSM principles will guide the location of development to ensure that it prioritizes solar siting within the built environment (rooftops, carports, irrigation ditches), on disturbed and contaminated lands (brownfields, landfills, reclaimed mining lands), and lastly, on marginal agricultural land instead of prime farmland. Where solar development occurs on good farmland, the installation should be agrivoltaic—or dual-use — allowing farming or ranching to continue in concert with solar energy production. As we build new solar, it’s critical not to harm agricultural systems which themselves help combat climate change by sequestering carbon.
“Farmers are on the frontlines of climate change, experiencing extreme weather events that impact their crops, livestock and livelihoods,” said John Piotti, AFT president and CEO. “We also know that farms can be part of the solution to the climate crisis. Farmland can draw carbon from the air to rebuild soil when farmed using climate-smart practices like cover crops and reduced tillage. We need to dramatically ramp up solar energy production while retaining our farms and ranches. That’s what this partnership is all about. Doing solar the right way and putting it in the right place is what we call Smart Solar.”
“For too long, agricultural land preservationists and green energy advocates have been at cross purposes,” said Adam Edelen, founder and CEO of Kentucky-based Edelen Renewables. “Bringing together those working to feed the planet with those working to power America offers an inspiring and workable path forward. This historic partnership will keep family farmers on their land, open a new front in battling climate change and benefit the checkbooks of lower-income ratepayers. This is a partnership in which everybody wins and is proof positive that Americans can bridge divides to make our communities, country and the world more sustainable, prosperous and resilient.”
“Arcadia was founded on the simple idea that everyone deserves access to clean energy, and our technology platform already manages over one gigawatt of cheaper, cleaner community solar for communities across the U.S.,” said Kiran Bhatraju, founder and CEO of Arcadia. “The nation’s farmland communities have long been on the front lines of climate change, and this partnership will give them a powerful new weapon in that fight, all while providing steady new revenues.”
“The partnership between Edelen Renewables, American Farmland Trust and Arcadia is representative of solar energy’s new frontier, said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Community solar projects are key to making clean and reliable solar power more accessible to families that have been left out of the renewable revolution. Together, these organizations will work to ensure that all parties involved, including landowners, rural communities, and developers, benefit from these sustainable energy developments.”
Development will begin in 2023 across a number of states that have active community solar programs, including ME, MA, RI, NY, NJ, DE, MD, DC, VA, IL, MN, CO, NM, and OR. The partnership will also accelerate community solar access across the country through state and federal policy advocacy.