With the Department of Energy’s plan to make solar 45% of the nation’s energy portfolio by 2050, the nation needs to rapidly step up its solar energy production. Innovative approaches that utilize farmland for energy generation, as well as agricultural purposes, will help us reach our clean energy goals.
Encore Renewable Energy is excited to provide Virginia landowners a new opportunity to participate in the industry’s growth. By leasing land for new solar farms, landowners can collect guaranteed rent for the next 25+ years while also participating in the creation of a clean energy future.
Is your farmland solar-friendly?
We are looking for land with existing access to established 3-phase electrical distribution lines, in parcels of 15 acres or more (25+ acres is preferred). Our initial interest is in potential solar sites in Dominion service territory, but we’ll eventually be developing projects in Appalachian Power and rural electric cooperatives territories too. These community-scale solar projects are designed to provide a steady, long-term income for the landowner and clean, renewable energy for the surrounding community.
Each project is designed for the site and is typically surrounded by a six-foot agricultural-style fence which can be designed to allow smaller wildlife species to pass through. The installations will provide approximately 3 megawatts of energy, enough to power an estimated 400 homes.
What are the benefits of hosting a solar project on your farm?
As the landowner, you will incur zero costs and will collect income over the duration of your lease. Encore handles all maintenance, pays taxes on the project, and pays you solar rent for hosting the project. You won’t need to worry about construction or permitting. Once the project is complete, your land will be providing clean, homegrown electricity for your local community.
You can harvest crops and solar on your family farm
We know farms need to stay in production, and we are committed to dual land uses. If you or someone else is farming the surrounding acreage, those existing agricultural uses can absolutely continue.
Does your farm have underutilized acreage, or an area unsuitable for agricultural production? At Misty Knolls Farm/Middlebury Foods Cooperative a previously unusable piece of the farm next to a manure pit was the perfect site for an Encore solar installation. At the Farm at Southside, Encore built a solar array in a marginal area of the property. At the Whitcomb Farm, Encore’s 20-acre solar project provides valuable lease revenue to the family, helping to keep the rest of the farm in agricultural production. Today, each of these projects generates income for the landowners and clean local power for the community.
We will also explore whether the land under the solar farm could be used for dual purposes: in many cases, sheep farming, pollinator-friendly habitats, and apiaries (honey production) are all compatible uses. Agrivoltaics, the integration of solar farms with agricultural land uses, is a technique for uniting energy and food production, and Virginia landowners have the opportunity to tap into this growing trend. Encore is able to contract with local sheep farmers to coordinate grazing around solar panels, allowing for farming and renewable energy to exist in partnership.
With our November deadline fast approaching, we encourage you to reach out today with any questions. More information, including some frequently asked questions on our landowners’ page.