North Dakota considers changes to farmland rule to allow solar projects

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.