Fight grows over converting farmland to solar fields

By Marc Heller | 06/03/2024 01:19 PM EDT

Growing demand for solar energy continues to feed conversions of farmland, but solar arrays and agriculture should co-exist, advocates say.

Solar panels at a farm in Thurmont, Maryland.

Solar panels at a farm in Thurmont, Maryland. Julio Cortez/AP

A fight to stop the conversion of farmland to solar energy production is bumping into efforts to make farming and energy production work together.

The emerging practice of “agrovoltaics,” or using land both for solar energy and food production, could be a casualty of a conflict that’s playing out among policymakers, industry groups and lawmakers as the 2024 farm bill takes shape.

The pressure is almost certain to grow.


The American Farmland Trust estimated that several million acres of farmland — much of it highly productive for crops — could end up as solar farms in the coming years as the U.S. seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, unless federal agencies or Congress step in to guide decisions.