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Exploring Farming and Solar Synergies: An Analysis Using Maryland Data

This report explores the synergies between farming and solar photovoltaics with the premises that agricultural production on farmland should be maintained and farm profitability and soil health should be improved. Instead of focusing on solar siting, this report explores whether a strong case can be made from a public policy point of view for developing solar so that it helps to preserve and improve farmland and the ecosystem in which it is located, while enabling achievement of both energy system and food system goals. Three examples, using Maryland data, analyzed in the report illustrate the potential of this dual farming-plus-solar approach, with solar being on 10% or less of the farm operation: (i) solar on 100 acres leased from a 1,000 acre corn-soy commodity crop operation; (ii) solar owned by the farmer on 16 acres of a 300-acre dairy-grazing operation; (iii) solar on one-acre of a ten-acre horticultural farm. In each case profits increase substantially. Farm economic resilience is improved because solar revenues are independent of the vagaries of weather and crop markets. While the examples are Maryland-specific, the approach for analyzing dual-use solar is broadly applicable elsewhere in the United States.