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USDA Grant Funds UMD-led Research of Solar Power on Agricultural Land

By Maryland Today Staff

Agricultural economists at the University of Maryland have been awarded nearly $500,000 by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to lead a multi-institutional investigation into the legal, economic and policy implications of solar power production on rural or agricultural land.

With large-scale solar projects expanding quickly throughout the U.S. and the introduction of new economic and policy incentives for renewable energy sources, agricultural land has become both a desirable and increasingly controversial location for solar panel installation. Leases for solar production can benefit landowners and farmers, but may also create economic losses in the agricultural sector while changing the identity and dynamics of rural communities. Researchers have not fully explored these costs and benefits, resulting in confusion among landowners about how to make sense of leasing offers.

With this new grant, UMD researchers, working with partners from Oklahoma State University and Cornell University, will fill in the knowledge gaps to help lay the groundwork for larger-scale nationwide research and education programs on solar power to serve rural landowners and ensure they can make the best possible decisions.

“Being able to say here is what a good lease looks like for your land, here are jobs lost and created, here are the impacts to communities—we can give people a better and more well-rounded view of how solar development would impact their lives,” said Paul Goeringer, senior faculty specialist with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and UMD Extension specialist and lead investigator on the project.

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