If the goal in the town of Moreau is to give farmers every opportunity to stay in business, then the Town Board should allow them to use land for solar farms.
Regulating solar installations, when it comes to neighborhood quality of life issues such as setbacks, fencing and glare, makes sense. It also makes sense to address the issue of permanence — the town wouldn’t want to spoil the land for future agricultural use.
But a solar law could address all of these issues, and we’re sure they have been addressed in other communities around the country where the installation of solar farms has been allowed.
Farming, especially dairy farming, is a difficult way to make a living, as it requires unrelenting effort and dependence on a fluctuating market. Allowing farmers a reliable source of income that would not distract from their farm work and would not degrade the land in the town’s agricultural district would benefit everyone who wants to see farmland preserved.
Farmland lost to housing, whether for multifamily units or single family homes, does not get reclaimed. No one in the foreseeable future is going to buy up houses and bulldoze them for crops.
Allowing farmers to put to profitable use land they don’t require for agriculture is a good way to prevent its loss to suburban sprawl. The town has a moratorium in place now on construction of multifamily housing, but farmers can still sell out to developers who string together cul de sacs of three-bedroom houses with four-car garages.
The town is also now under a moratorium on solar farms, while board members decide how to regulate them. On the table is a suggestion to allow farmers solar panels but only for their own use. That is too restrictive and lends itself to unfairness.
If solar is limited to what one farm can use, then large farms will be able to put in more solar panels than smaller farms. Farms that don’t use much electricity could install only a few panels while other farms of the same size that use more electricity could put in more.
The board should come up with rules that can be applied consistently, that take into account the effect on neighbors and that make provision for the dismantling and disposal of the solar panels in the event that becomes necessary. All of that is doable, and it is worth doing.
Solar farms also give residents who can’t invest in their own solar panels access to green energy.
The town has a chance here to accomplish two things: to preserve its agricultural heritage and to conserve the environment by promoting green energy. A balance can be found between allowing unchecked proliferation of solar farms and cutting off a financial lifeline for local farmers. We urge the Town Board to find it.
Local editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Publisher/Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representative Chuck Cumming.
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