Landowners in New York have been approached by commercial solar industry giants for leasing their lands for solar power production. During the past few months, solar companies have been covering rural areas with mailings, in an effort to offer leases to landowners for their farmlands to establish their solar panels. The lands under consideration must be spread across at least 20 acres.
These steps have been encouraged by the renewable energy plan of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also announced the continuation of the 30 % federal tax credit in December. Landowners are being suggested to be cautious by a few agricultural advisers, community leaders and lawyers, amid the enthusiasm among certain farmers towards an annual earning of up to $2,000 per acre for a period of the next 20 years.
“These are complex business transactions masquerading as lottery tickets. There are unexamined risks and environmental impacts. That’s why landowners are banding together again to formulate leases that will protect their interests,” said Chris Denton, a lawyer from southern New York, who helped landowner groups during negotiations on oil and gas leases at the time of the Marcellus Shale gas rush in 2009.
Environmental Director for the Nonprofit Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Manna Jo Greene, said that former landfills will reap advantages from solar development, while for prime farmlands it is not a suitable option. She added that there are several issues associated with zoning, agricultural tax benefits and impacts on farm operations, along with the final decommissioning and clearance of the solar components.
The state is getting the attention of several solar companies owing to the initiatives of the Cuomo administration. The plan aims to enhance the local production of renewable energy and alleviating greenhouse gas emissions as well as renewable energy sources accounting for 50% of the total production of energy in the state by 2030.