Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Unfold of photo voltaic farms in Georgia to get legislative scrutiny to guard fertile farmland


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

However, there may be 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 could be finished 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,” stated Senator Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, who chairs the Senate Study Committee on the Preservation of Georgia’s Farmlands. “We have to verify our farm is protected.”

Other components have performed a task in Georgia’s fast agricultural decline, together with the development of housing subdivisions to accommodate inhabitants development, warehouse distribution facilities and — most not too long ago — knowledge facilities.

But photo voltaic initiatives have additionally grown throughout the state prior to now decade, together with some rooftop installations on particular person houses and companies however largely bigger “utility-scale” deployments of fields of photo voltaic panels often called photo voltaic farms.

The trade 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 circumstances, a photo voltaic firm owns the land and sells the ability 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 vitality provider for 38 electrical membership cooperatives in Georgia. Green Power EMC has greater than 40 neighborhood and utility-scale photo voltaic initiatives unfold over 10,000 hectares.

Last 12 months, Georgia ranked seventh within the nation in complete put in photo voltaic capability, producing 5,936 megawatts, in accordance 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 keen companions with Georgia farmers as a result of they provide safety in an agricultural trade stricken by uncertainty, stated Jeff Clark, president of the Advanced Power Alliance, a clear trade commerce affiliation energetic in Georgia and 10 different states.

“(Farmers) are being killed by huge company farms and overregulation … commodity costs, and climate fluctuations,” he stated. “For them, this is a chance to diversify and have a gentle supply of revenue. … So I feel it is actually coming.

“For farmers, it is a troublesome 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 massive quantity of land they take up.

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

Bentley stated his 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, often after 20 years.

“Is the land introduced again to manufacturing or left in chaos?” he requested.

The General Assembly sought to handle that subject this 12 months by passing laws that might 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 embody eradicating the foundations of the photo voltaic arrays from the bottom to a depth of not less than 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 supply monetary assurance not less than equal to the estimated value of eradicating the photo voltaic arrays and returning the property to its pure state.

“At the tip of the lifetime of a photo voltaic mission, that household will get the land, and the mission is taken over,” Clark stated.

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 all the Senate on December 1.

“We’re not going to have all of the solutions, however hopefully we will study quite a bit,” Hickman stated. “Maybe it is extra about elevating consciousness of the necessity to protect the farm.”

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