Solar Farms May Destroy American Farmland

( РAs the renewable energy sector grows and solar farms spread across the U.S. Midwest, farmers are sounding the alarm about the negative impact they have on American agriculture. Analysis conducted on data gathered at local, state, and federal levels, with input from soil and energy experts, as well as affected farmers, paints a picture of widespread damage to some of the country’s most fertile soils with consequences that could last for generations.

Solar farm companies need large, flat expanses of ground as well as plenty of reliable sunshine in order to maximize supply, and therefore profits. The American Midwest has these criteria in abundance as well as the added benefit of relatively cheap land compared to other parts of the country. For farmers, the eager solar companies can offer lease contracts that give a much higher, and more reliable return, than traditional crop or animal farming, although some farmers have found that the relatively easy money comes at a cost.

Dave Duttlinger from Indiana is one such farmer who has spoken about the negative consequences of leasing out his farmland. In 2019, Duttlinger leased about 445 acres of land to Dunns Bridge Solar LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC. Contractors for the company undertook extensive landscaping work on his land, grading it in order to facilitate construction. Although Dunns Bridge Solar agreed not to remove topsoil and to minimize any disturbance to crop growing on the land, much of the high-quality topsoil is now covered with a significant layer of sand, destroying its fertility, and according to Duttlinger, rendering such land infertile for at least his lifetime.

When Duttlinger spoke to NextEra about the damage, they promised to abide by the terms of the contract and review any work needed to repair any damage at the end of its lease term in 2073. While Duttlinger may have been the one to sign the contract, he says his neighbors have also been impacted and have repeatedly complained to him about dust from the solar farm getting onto their land and into their homes.

In 2023, the U.S was estimated to have 8% less farmland than it did in 1997, and with demand for solar and other renewable energy growing, as well as urban sprawl contributing to a reduction in agricultural land, some experts are concerned that the U.S. will continue to lose increasing areas of its most productive farmland.

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