As states consider the compatibility of utility-scale solar projects on farmland, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is revisiting a state policy that the industry says has acted as a barrier.
Michigan’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program provides tax incentives to landowners who keep land under contract for agricultural practices for decades. In 2017, under former Gov. Rick Snyder, the state issued a policy saying commercial solar development is not compatible with the program, and landowners would have to end their farmland preservation contracts if they entered into commercial solar leases.
Farmers can exit the preservation program under a variety of conditions. However, doing so in most cases means paying back the previous seven years of tax credits plus 6% interest. This has been a barrier for farmers interested in commercial solar leases.
Under Whitmer, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is reviewing the policy, looking at both short- and long-term solutions for farmers interested in solar leases. The process could result in legislation requiring solar projects on preservation land to include agriculturally compatible features, such as raised panels allowing for grazing or shade-tolerant crops. The agriculture department administers the preservation program.
The department has assembled a nine-member task force that includes agricultural and clean energy groups to examine the issue.
Read more at Bridge Michigan