This week, the United States celebrates National Farmers Day on October 12th. Farming is a millennia-old occupation that is central to America’s national identity. Many of the country’s founders were farmers, and agriculture continues to play an integral part of the U.S. economy.
Farmers today are doing more than traditional crop farming. They're growing solar and wind "crops." Across America’s heartland, farmers are in favor of renewable resources, because using their land for solar and wind farming (in addition to their other crops) is providing farmers with guaranteed income and stability. Much needed jobs and influxes of cash into local tax revenue bases are also a benefit to states from Texas to Iowa.
Solar and Wind Farms Create Steady Cash Crops
One of the benefits of solar and wind energy for farmers is that they are guaranteed cash crops. Farmers get paid either for the land upon which the turbines or arrays sit or for how much energy they produce. Unlike almost any other crop, energy is harnessed consistently and isn’t subject to much of the unpredictability of biological crops. Sometimes, that steady income can mean the difference between a lean year and a starving one. Some farms are even finding that solar power is more lucrative than their traditional crops.
Massachusetts Adding Solar Panels to their Cranberry Bogs
In Massachusetts, a new SMART (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target) program is helping farmers install and reap the benefits of solar panels into their traditional plant crop farming—referred to as “agrovoltaics.” In that state, cranberry farmers are incorporating solar panel installations into their cranberry bogs. Siting solar farms in water can provide a second, simultaneous use for the water areas; providing additional income for the farmers.
Illinois Ensuring a Bumper Crop of Solar for Farmers
Illinois Governor Rauner signed two bills this summer that will help solar installations benefit rural communities and farmers. The bills, which govern tax benefits for farmers with solar panels and also ensure that solar panels and farm crops can coexist fruitfully, will benefit both the solar industry and the rural communities that host solar panel installations.
“Solar businesses are ready and willing to create new jobs, clean energy, and tax revenue to support Illinois communities. This bill provides a framework for us to move forward,” said Lesley McCain, executive director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. “The solar industry was proud to work with the Farm Bureau, county tax assessors, and school districts to develop smart solar legislation that benefits all Illinoisans.”
Across America, Generating New Income to Farmers from Wind Power
In many areas of the country, wind farms are also adding new income to farmers and other rural landowners. Wind developers reimburse the farmers or land owners for the use of their land, and often pay local governments to help build out road infrastructure and other necessities. That means that many economically distressed areas get economic boosts. According to the American Wind Energy Association, in 2016, $222 million was given to farmers and land owners, with “more than $156 million going to landowners in counties with below average incomes.”
In honor of the nation’s farmers, we salute them for their contributions to the bread basket of America. And, for helping this country move forward into the future with clean, renewable energy.
Here at CleanChoice Energy, as an electricity supplier, we’re helping more people get access to clean energy sourced from wind and solar power. Learn how you can switch your home to 100% pollution-free clean energy today!