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Michigan to allow commercial solar panels on more farmland

Posted at 2:23 PM, Jun 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-03 22:49:18-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan officials have decided to allow solar panels for larger commercial solar arrays to be built on more farmland around the state.

“My administration understands and is committed to helping meet the growing demand for clean, renewable energy sources in our state. By preparing for and investing in renewable energy, we're protecting our environment while diversifying revenue options for Michigan farmers and supporting economic development and job creation in a key Michigan industry." said Whitmer. “We want to ensure that the placement of commercial solar panel arrays is consistent with farming operations and the purposes of PA 116, while also providing opportunities for renewable energy."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Gary McDowell announced Monday that the department has decided to allow land enrolled in the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program to be used for such solar power projects.

McDowell says in a statement the change "will not result in a loss of useable farmland" and will provide a "new opportunity for Michigan's farmers to diversify."

“This administrative decision will not result in a loss of useable farmland,” said McDowell. “The change ensures that Michigan’s farmland is preserved so we can continue to feed our communities while also balancing the need to develop renewable energy sources. This is an exciting new opportunity for Michigan's farmers to diversify while they continue to face challenging circumstances.”

The land preservation program provides tax incentives to landowners who keep properties for agricultural use.

Michigan says about 3.4 million acres of farmland currently are enrolled in the program and developers were having trouble finding farmland for large solar projects.

Michigan Environmental Council released the following statement in support:
“This executive decision is an all around win for Michigan,” said Michigan Environmental Council Agricultural Policy Director Tom Zimnicki. “Not only does this action ensure Michigan residents will continue to benefit from more clean, affordable solar energy, but it also importantly protects pollinators, which are vital to the health of our state’s ecosystems and our agriculture industry. Increased threats to pollinators and recent declines in their populations jeopardizes food production for some of our favorite Michigan crops like apple, blueberry, and cherry. The pollinator habitat requirement of this executive decision is an important step for ensuring food production, and hopefully serves as a model to other states for how renewable energy, pollinator habitat, and agriculture can coexist for the betterment of everyone.”

The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (Michigan EIBC) released a statement saying that they are pleased with the decision by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to allow solar energy deployment on farmland held under the Farmland Preservation Program.
“MDARD’s decision is a win for farmers, clean energy and the state of Michigan,” Michigan EIBC President Laura Sherman said. “Thanks to MDARD's policy, farmers will have access to a new revenue stream, while continuing to preserve their farmland for future agricultural use.”

Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-business Association (MABA) praised Whitmer's administration on the order for the use of solar energy on land enrolled in PA 116.
“Solar energy provides farmers, agribusinesses and farm communities with a steady source of tax revenue while preserving farmland for future generations,” said Byrum. “We are pleased with the Whitmer Administration’s resolution that will protect farmland while providing opportunities for rural communities to take advantage of the tax revenue, jobs and economic boosts that come with solar installations.”

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