Municipal Tools for Solar Siting

Print Friendly and PDF

Solar Siting

The benefits of well-planned solar siting policies are wide-ranging:

  • Reduced competition between renewable energy generation and agricultural production.
  • Cultivation of social and political acceptance of solar development.
  • Protection of current and future agricultural land uses.
  • Preservation of prime agricultural land and other important farmland.
  • Economic growth for both the agricultural and solar sectors.
  • Regulatory clarity for both farmers and solar developers.
  • Improved permitting efficiency and reduced administrative costs.
  • Accelerated deployment of renewable energy to reach clean energy goals.

The Maine Farmland Trust recommends the following guidelines:

1. Where possible, avoid land identified by the Natural Resources Conservation Service as “Prime Farmland” or “Farmland of Statewide Importance,” or otherwise cause productive farmland to be taken out of production, including land leased for agricultural uses.

2. Preferentially use previously-developed, disturbed, degraded, or marginally productive portions of the farm property. This includes rooftops, land within and around farmstead areas, sand and gravel pits, and other areas with low utility for agricultural production.

3. Encourage dual-use projects, where agricultural production and electricity production from solar installations occur together on the same piece of land.

4. Build, operate, and decommission projects in ways that preserve the ability for the land to be farmed in the future and that do not inhibit access to or the productivity of farmland surrounding the solar installation.

5. Minimize the impacts of grid connection on the agricultural resources of the property.

6. Where applicable, projects should benefit the farm business directly by providing electricity to meet the energy needs (in whole or in part) of the farm.

For an in depth discussion, check out this webinar from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. 

Below are key resources than can help you ensure that solar development benefits farms and farmland in your community, rather than competing with it.

Key websites:

Solar Toolkit and Other Resources from Maine Audubon

Farmland and Solar Development from Maine Farmland Trust

Agricultural Solar Siting Resources from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF)

Smart Solar Resources from the American Farmland Trust

The U.S. Department of Energy’s InSPIRE project and Farmer’s Guide to Going Solar

Useful documents:

Solar Siting Guide for Maine Towns

Best Practices for Low Impact Solar Siting, Design, and Maintenance

Information for Owners of Maine Farmland on Commercial Solar Development

Solar in Maine FAQ

Solar Farm Grazing Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Sheep

Guide to Farming Friendly Solar

What is Dual-use Solar?

Model Site Plan Regulations and Conditional Use Permits to Support Solar Energy Systems in Maine Municipalities

Solar Siting Guide for Farmland

Technical Guidance for Utility-Scale Solar Installation and Development on Agricultural, Forested, and Natural Lands

Co-Location of Agriculture and Solar: Opportunities to Improve Energy, Food, and Water Resources

Farmland Solar Policy Design Toolkit

Standards for Dual Use Solar Installations