In Bad Axe, Michigan, Farmers to ‘Grow Cash Crops’ with Solar Power Fields

In Michigan, farmers are considering a solar deal that would earn them $300 more per acre than their own agribusinesses can produce, according to a January 25 report by the Huron Daily Tribune.

Cypress Creek Renewables of Arizona is offering local landowners in Bad Axe, Michigan, up to $800 an acre to house solar farms on 30-acre parcels for 20 years – and some already have signed up, according to the local news outlet.

“They can’t make that farming,” Huron County Commissioner John Nugent told the Tribune. “They’re lucky if they make $500 an acre.”

To move the proposal ahead, County Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith informed the Huron County Board of Commissioners that Cypress Creek Renewables already has requested that the county devise a large-scale commercial solar ordinance. Several landowners and their attorneys have reached out to Smith.

For their part, city officials were not sure if the farms would be considered a means of agricultural land preservation, as wind farms are. The Tribune reported that some worried that the solar farms would eat up agricultural land in the county, and reduce agricultural production.

Bad Axe representatives plan to consult with Rich Harlow, Farmland Preservation Program manager for the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, to see if solar farms can be considered for farmland preservation under Michigan’s Public Act 116.

Smith referred to 2005 when landowners signed wind leasing agreements “and …” his voice trailed off, the paper reported, but Commissioner Ron Wruble finished his sentence with “asked questions later.”

The county recently imposed a year-long moratorium on wind development. This has quieted the renewable energy debate among officials and residents.

However, Smith told the Tribune, “Solar sounds like the next hot topic.”

County Commissioner Nugent noted that farms with wind turbines would not be eligible for solar contracts, while pointing out that solar farms are more lucrative.

Finally, during the meeting, Nugent asked Smith what the downside of solar energy is. Smith replied that there is glare comparable to a lake or river bed, and that electromagnetic fields are an issue.

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