Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Unfold of photo voltaic farms in Georgia about to get legislative scrutiny |


ATLANTA – Georgia is the most important state east of the Mississippi River, with eight million acres of prime farmland.

However, there’s a lot concern over the unfold of photo voltaic farms which have eaten up a lot of that acreage with so many photo voltaic panel fields that the state Senate has shaped a examine committee to look at what may be accomplished to avoid wasting essentially the most fertile land for farmers.

“We’ve misplaced greater than two and a half million acres of farmland within the final 40 years,” mentioned Senator Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, who chairs the Senate Study Committee on the Preservation of Georgia’s Farmlands. “We have to ensure our farm is protected.”

Other components have performed a task in Georgia’s speedy agricultural decline, together with the development of housing subdivisions to accommodate inhabitants progress, warehouse distribution facilities and — most lately — information middle.

But photo voltaic initiatives have additionally grown throughout the state previously decade, together with some rooftop installations on particular person houses and companies however principally bigger “utility-scale” deployments of fields of photo voltaic panels generally known as photo voltaic farms.

The business operates on two fashions. Farmers lease their land to photo voltaic firms, which construct and function photo voltaic farms for a set time period. In different instances, a photo voltaic firm owns the land and sells the facility to the utilities.

For instance, Silicon Ranch primarily based in Nashville, Tenn. sells electrical energy generated at photo voltaic farm websites it owns and operates to Green Power EMC, the renewable power provider for 38 electrical membership cooperatives in Georgia. Green Power EMC has greater than 40 group and utility-scale photo voltaic initiatives unfold over 10,000 hectares.

Last yr, Georgia ranked seventh within the nation in whole put in photo voltaic capability, producing 5,936 megawatts, in line with the Solar Energy Industries Association. One megawatt of electrical energy is sufficient to energy 750 houses. The 250 photo voltaic firms at present working in Georgia have invested $6.5 billion and created 5,382 jobs.

Solar firms have discovered prepared companions with Georgia farmers as a result of they provide safety in an agricultural business stricken by uncertainty, mentioned Jeff Clark, president of the Advanced Power Alliance, a clear business commerce affiliation energetic in Georgia and 10 different states.

“(Farmers) are being killed by massive company farms and overregulation … commodity costs, and climate fluctuations,” he mentioned. “For them, this is a chance to diversify and have a gradual supply of revenue. … So I believe it is actually progressing.”

“For farmers, it is a tough alternative to refuse as a result of the monetary alternatives are so nice that they’ll enable them to proceed farming on different elements of their properties,” added Will Bentley , president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council.

The drawback of the unfold of photo voltaic farms is the big quantity of land they take up.

“Southwest Georgia is prime farmland,” mentioned Bryan Tolar, who preceded Bentley on the agribusiness council and now runs his personal authorities affairs agency. “Shall we take the principle farm?”

Bentley mentioned his most important concern with photo voltaic farms is what occurs to the land occupied by photo voltaic farms when the leases entered into by farmers with photo voltaic firms expire, normally after 20 years.

“Has the land returned to manufacturing or left a multitude?” he requested.

The General Assembly sought to handle that concern this yr by passing laws that may require photo voltaic firms that lease property for photo voltaic farms to revive the land to its pure state after completion. the lease.

Restoration actions embrace eradicating the foundations of the photo voltaic arrays from the bottom to a depth of at the very least three ft, filling holes dug to accommodate the photo voltaic panels, and eradicating cables and overhead. energy and communication strains.

House Bill 300, which takes impact on July 1, additionally requires firms to offer monetary assurance at the very least equal to the estimated price of eradicating the photo voltaic arrays and returning the property to its pure state.

“At the top of the lifetime of a photo voltaic challenge, that household will get the land, and the challenge is taken over,” Clark mentioned.

The Senate examine committee will maintain its first assembly subsequent month in Statesboro, with subsequent conferences going down in Cornelia and two Southwest Georgia areas which have but to be chosen. The panel will make a advice to the whole Senate on December 1.

“We’re not going to have all of the solutions, however hopefully we’ll be taught lots,” Hickman mentioned. “Maybe it is extra about elevating consciousness of the necessity to protect the farm.”

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