AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) and the Maine Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) are convening a stakeholder group to consider the opportunities and challenges presented by solar energy development on agricultural land in Maine. The group will meet monthly throughout the summer and fall and present a report with potential policy and other recommendations to the Legislature in January 2022.
The first stakeholder group Zoom conference call is scheduled for Thursday, June 3, 2021, from 9:00 am – noon. Meeting details for this and all meetings will be posted to the Maine.gov Public Meetings Calendar.
Across Maine and New England, previously undeveloped farmland and forestland have become potential sites for solar energy installations. In December 2020, the state’s four-year climate action plan, Maine Won’t Wait, recommended that the state work with stakeholders to develop policies for Maine that thoughtfully balance the siting of renewable projects with the protection of natural and working lands. In 2019, Maine law changed to encourage solar development. Solar developers are actively working to secure potential sites for solar installations, including agricultural land. Recent reports from other New England states suggest that much of the land used will be previously undeveloped farmland and forestland.
“The Department supports the State’s goals for reducing dependence on fossil fuels and pursuing renewable energy generation. At the same time, prime soils and soils of statewide importance are finite, and they are key to Maine’s current and future agricultural productivity, climate resiliency, and food security. Finding the right policies, incentives, and parameters to help balance these interests are critical,” said DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal.
“Developing renewable energy is key to achieving Maine’s bold climate and clean energy targets, fighting climate change, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and creating good-paying jobs around the state,” said Celina Cunningham, Deputy Director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “This stakeholder process will help inform how to properly site solar projects, to both protect valuable natural and working lands and maximize benefits to Maine people and communities.”
Stakeholders include 15 Maine agricultural community representatives, renewable energy developers, municipal representatives, conservation advocates, and relevant state agencies.
- Celina Cunningham, Governor’s Energy Office (Co-Chair)
- Nancy McBrady, DACF (Co-Chair)
- Nick Armentrout, Spring Creek Farm
- Emily Cole, American Farmland Trust
- Heather Donahue, Balfour Farm
- Ellen Griswold, Maine Farmland Trust
- Sarah Haggerty, Maine Audubon
- Kaitlin Hollinger, BlueWave
- Matt Kearns, Longroad Energy
- Fortunat Mueller, ReVision Energy
- George O’Keefe, Town of Rumford
- Jeremy Payne, Maine Renewable Energy Association
- Andy Smith, The Milkhouse
- Julie Ann Smith, Maine Farm Bureau
- Patrick Wynne, City of Hallowell
Interested in the Agricultural Solar Stakeholder Group?
–Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
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