AUGUSTA — New technical guidance with additional online solar siting and energy efficiency resources has been issued to encourage solar development in ways that avoid or minimize impacts to agricultural and forested lands, as well as other ecologically sensitive natural lands in response to growing interest in solar development in Maine, according to a news release from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The department’s Technical Guidance For Utility-Scale Solar Installation and Development on Agricultural, Forested, and Natural Lands provides practical information for landowners to utilize when considering solar development. The document also provides technical guidance for solar developers when designing, installing, and removing solar projects.

“The department fully supports the state’s goals for reducing reliance on fossil fuels and pursuing renewable energy generation. We also encourage thoughtful siting of solar projects and believe that the guidance we are issuing today will be a beneficial resource to landowners and developers alike in that regard,” said DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal, according to the release.

To complement the new guidance, the department created a Solar Siting Resources webpage that contains a set of resources for anyone interested in learning more about the intersection of solar power and agriculture or forestry. The department also created an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Financial Resources for Farms webpage that highlights opportunities that may help keep farms productive, reduce costs, and lessen environmental impacts.

“Agricultural production, solar development, and energy efficiency investments can be mutually beneficial when thoughtfully planned. We are ready to assist farmers and forestland owners with these resources,” said Bureau of Agriculture Director Nancy McBrady, according to the release.

“Proper planning and good decision-making is critical, with some solar projects, we are talking about removing land that has generated timber jobs and income for generations,” said Patty Cormier, Maine State Forester, according to the release. “With these new solar siting tools, we hope to help landowners and developers make the best and most informed decisions.”

The department is hosting a free Maine Solar Development and Agriculture Opportunities and Impacts Session during the 2021 Maine Agricultural Trades Show from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22. This online session will explore the resources available for siting solar on agricultural land. To register to attend and explore the full slate of presentations and conferences at this year’s online Maine Agricultural Trades show, visit maine.gov.

For more information about the new technical guidance, visit maine.gov.

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