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USDA Hosting Listening Sessions about Clean Energy Project Siting

Leigh Hallett
Release Date

Farmers and other Maine stakeholders invited to share

their perspectives through virtual meetings or by email

Bangor, January 5, 2024The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will host a series of virtual listening sessions this month. The agencies invite diverse perspectives on the benefits and challenges of siting clean energy installations (such as solar and wind) on agricultural land. They wish to hear from Maine stakeholders during the process to understand local siting concerns and to help guide the future development of resources.

In Maine, USDA Rural Development has invested more than $117M in renewable energy projects for farms and small businesses in the last two years. Clean energy deployment is key to domestic energy security, addressing climate change, and rural economic development. USDA’s investment in this sector has helped Maine farms and businesses realize significant savings on energy spending.

However, larger projects can be spur debate. There is no one-size-fits-all solution or best practice to siting scaled renewable energy projects because each community that hosts a project is unique. In Maine, preserving farmland is a key concern. There are many pressures on Maine agricultural land, including farmer retirement and suburban development. Rural residents may see local renewable energy projects as another pressure on farmland.

Maine residents have been weighing the benefits of renewable energy options against the pressures. “When storms such as the one we experienced in December hit, those of us making our living on the land are vulnerable to the devastating impacts,” USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Hampson said recently. “With the frequency of these storms increasing, driven by climate change, as farmers we have an opportunity to be part of the solution. Learning how to achieve our clean energy goals while navigating the need for the preservation of working lands is critical. The only way to create that map forward is through collaboration – that’s why USDA and the Department of Energy are partnering to host this series of listening sessions.”

The agencies invite all stakeholders, including residents, developers, businesses, and others, to provide feedback. There are four online sessions scheduled, as well as an opportunity to submit written comments via email:

Clean energy investments can bring economic opportunities to farmers and rural Americans. At the same time, USDA recognizes that people have concerns that such development may result in the loss of farmland, decreased home values, or impact on rural character. The issue has been studied at length in Maine, where the Governor’s Energy Office Convened a Solar Stakeholder Group that held regular meetings in 2021 and issued a final report in 2022 (http://tinyurl.com/4rkt6k43).



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