Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wind and Solar energy generators being built on Maryland farmland

    A new bill in the Senate right now would allow for landowners who have sold their development rights to the state to use up to five acres of their land to generate energy via wind or solar, or via decomposing animal and crop waste.  Groups supporting the cause claim it will help bolster dwindling revenues from farms, as well as streamline prospects for clean, renewable energy, helping Maryland reach its goal of twenty percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022.  Among the proponents are the farmers, who need the extra funds to help stabilize their business.  The turbines would take up about a half acre of land each, allowing animals and crops to graze and grow around them.  Opponents of the bills say that allowing any non agricultural activities on land that has been reserved for farming would undermine efforts to keep farmland, which only one fourth of is currently shielded from development pressures.  They say we cannot afford to lose anymore farmland when we have the rest of the state available for these energy endeavours.
     I believe this bill would have more positive externalities than it would negative. Land that is leased to companies to build turbines could turn six figure incomes for farmers, helping to greatly secure their businesses.  The turbines and solar arrays are also very mobile, and much less invasive than other forms of development.  Yes, we would lose some farmland, but limiting the area lost to five acres per farm seems reasonable, since many of these farms are comprised of hundreds of acres. From other presentations in class, it seems that people who want offshore wind power are against actually looking at the windmills; they want a clear view of the ocean.  If the turbines are off in the middle of a farm, this would not detract anyone’s view, and would produce the same energy results.  The extra income generated from the renewable energy could also allow the farmers to reinvest the money into the crops or livestock they raise, potentially increasing their yield, which would make up for the land lost to the energy projects.  I feel this is overall a beneficial project.
--Pat Gosey

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