Hartford Business Journal
Expert Corner – Paul R. Michaud
Connecticut farmers traditionally grow crops such as vegetables, fruit, and tobacco, accounting for just over half of the state’s agricultural revenue. The other half comes from nurseries and greenhouses. But there is a new crop that may boost revenues for the industry — solar panels converting sunshine into electricity.
Earlier this year, the Connecticut legislature passed Public Act No. 13-298, An Act Concerning Implementation of Connecticut’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy and Various Revisions to the Energy Statutes. This new law lets agricultural customers of Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating to own solar farms up to 3 megawatts and sell the solar power to serve the needs of up to 10 other farms, towns, cities, and even certain electric customers with critical facilities connected to a microgrid. This process is known as virtual net metering. An added benefit to these customers is a large, but declining, portion of the distribution and transmission charges on their utility bills will disappear.
Solar panels make an interesting crop. They are inert, contain no moving parts, and produce no noise. They sit on a field and convert sunlight into electricity. Roughly six acres of open and shade-free land is required for every megawatt of solar installed. Thus, a solar farmer would utilize 18 acres to install a 3 megawatt solar farm. The average farm size in the state is 87 acres and may have some unproductive land suitable for solar.
Unlike most crops, which must be harvested once a year and are subject to volatile weather and market price changes, solar produces electricity year-round at a predictable efficiency rate and at a fixed price. The revenue stream produced by a solar farm remains steady over its 25-plus year lifespan. More good news is that an agricultural landowner does not have to be an energy expert to be a solar farmer. There are many well-qualified solar companies that will install, finance, and even operate and maintain the solar farm for you. Click for full article.