Oh, how times are always changing. I think most people would agree that the core of the United States workforce has traditionally been farmers, who have supported the nation with domestic crops for centuries. Unfortunately, the life of a farmer is steeped in hard work, and we’re not just talking about physical labor. Farmers regularly have to deal with the markets and the ever-changing prices of crops. Natural disasters, droughts, and other circumstances can crush their profits in the blink of an eye. But believe it or not, for some farmers, it is more profitable for them to use their land to farm solar energy as opposed to crops under certain conditions.
Stable Income for Farmers
It seems that some farmers are hedging their bets against fluctuating market prices by installing solar farms on their land. This is great for a farmer because it provides them with a more stable income that is less risky. However, some of these farmers have met harsh criticism because others view them as an aesthetic blight to the landscape.
However, the benefits cannot be denied. Typically, farmers will lease a fraction of their total land with a 15 to 20-year contract, and in some extreme cases, farmers have decided to lease all of their land to solar initiatives. Of course, the government plays a major role in controlling these endeavors. For example, in North Carolina, solar farm developers received tax credits on as much as 35 percent of total costs. Similar incentives were created in other states that sent developers into a frenzy to scour the land for solar real estate.
One such farmer, Dawson Singletary, has long grown a variety of crops including cotton, soybeans, peanuts, and tobacco (among others) in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the falling prices of crops could have spelled disaster for his family’s farm. Within the last five years, the price of soybeans has dropped 33 percent, the price of cotton dropped 71 percent, and the price of peanuts have dropped 16 percent. This creates a scenario where farmers like Singletary have to work harder and harder for diminishing returns because they are at the mercy of the markets. The good news is that solar energy was able to save the day for Singletary and many other farmers like him. “There is not a single crop that we could have grown on that land that would generate the income that we get from the solar farm,” said Singletary.
Ancillary Economic Benefits of Solar Technologies
It’s pretty incredible to see how well solar technologies benefit our economy. Most people only see the surface benefits of saving money on energy bills for years to come and raising their property value, but solar technologies offer many ancillary benefits that tie into other industries. The option to lease farmland to solar development projects is a godsend to many hard working farmers, allowing them to continue working their land without the threat of financial disaster.