State regulators have received more than 100 applications from developers seeking to qualify under the policy. A Vermont policy meant to steer solar projects away from undeveloped and agricultural land appears to be working two years after it was implemented. Solar developers under the rules can earn a premium rate by building smaller projects sited on landfills, sandpits and other less desirable properties. Since state regulators made the change in July 2017, they’ve received more than 100 applications for projects seeking to qualify for the program. State officials are now taking input on how they could potentially expand or refine the program to cover factors such as tree clearing and grid congestion.
Hog farmers’ voices are “making a huge difference” in opposing the bill, which has been awaiting a House vote since March.
State regulators are proposing changes after having to consider the rule for the state’s largest solar project. A decades-old rule meant to protect North Dakota farmers from unwanted pipeline and transmission projects is potentially limiting their ability to benefit from solar projects, according to advocates and state regulators. North Dakota’s prime farmland rule recently surfaced in deliberations over the state’s first utility-scale solar proposal, a 200-megawatt project by Geronimo Energy that will span 1,662 acres of Cass County in the Red River Valley. The North Dakota Public Service Commission approved the project in February and later initiated a process to revise the prime farmland rule so that future solar projects don’t face similar uncertainty. The entire footprint of Geronimo’s Harmony solar project is classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as prime farmland.
A task force is examining whether participants in a farmland preservation program should be allowed to add solar panels.
The projects include a solar farm that would likely be the largest in the country outside of the West.