Date of Award
Honors Thesis (Open Access)
Colby College. Environmental Studies Program
Maine has established lofty goals including a 100% renewable portfolio by 2050 and increasing local food production by 30% by 2030 (Final, 2020; Maine, 2020). The National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted a study on state technical potential for solar installation and included 4% of Maine farmland, equivalent to 52,000 acres being taken out of the food system for energy generation (State, 2021). Increased pressure on farmers and demand for solar installations has created a land-use conflict. This study investigates expert perspectives on the intersection of solar development and farmland in Maine. A total of 17 interviews with farmers, policy advocates, and developers were conducted using a semi-structured interview protocol. Qualitative data analysis was used to identify and compare themes among stakeholder groups. Solar on farmland can be an additional source of income and reduce electricity bills, increasing the resilience of Maine’s food system. Farmers expressed concerns over the loss of farmland as a result of solar development, as well as uncertainty regarding the future of Maine’s farmland given a generational transition is in progress. Leased land is a particular concern because landowners are incentivized to lease to solar developers instead of farmers by the extreme financial disparity. The scale of both solar arrays and farms will dictate what a successful arrangement on farmland will look like in Maine. Investigating the optimal strategies for siting location and type of panel arrangements, along with coordination among stakeholder groups, will create a path forward for successful solar projects that provide mutual benefits to all parties.
Solar, farmland, Maine, transition, scale, siting
Recommended CitationHankin, Ellie, "Food and Fuel: Investigating expert perspectives on the intersection of solar development and farmland in Maine" (2023). Honors Theses. Paper 1424.
Available for download on Friday, June 14, 2024