December 15, 2016
CT Green Guide

Environmental Council concerned about farmland solar

The state Council on Environmental Quality, an advisory agency, has added its voice to concerns about increasingly large solar farms taking up agricultural land.

CEQ released a draft report this week calling for stricter rules for solar farms seeking approval from the Connecticut Siting Council, which has authority over larger energy projects, and for the state to halt incentives for projects on farmland and forestland and to instead strengthen incentives for solar projects on landfills, brownfields and previously developed properties.

Solar developers have expressed concern about the amount of such space available in Connecticut and that it may not support the major solar farms -- some as big as 20 megawatts -- selected in a recent state-run RFP.

CEQ Executive Director Karl Wagener acknowledged those concerns in a phone interview Thursday and said he is not certain what capacity exists in the state on those types of parcels. But he noted a 2013 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that concluded there was sufficient property of those sorts throughout the country to meet the 632-gigawatt solar goal outlined in the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot program.

Like Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky, CEQ is concerned about the increasing number of massive solar farms erected or planned for farmland and forestland.

The report isn't final and may well change. Wagener said the council discussed the draft report at a meeting Wednesday morning and concluded that the matter is complex and the report needs more work. He said the recommendations may change in the final version, expected to come out early next year.

CEQ members will attend a meeting in January with the solar industry and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to discuss the matter.

Read more

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