Bill proposing solar restrictions on farmland dies
SALEM — A proposal to make commercial solar projects tougher to build on high-value farmland in Oregon has died, but lawmakers expect to revisit the issue.
House Bill 3050 would have required developers to conduct an "alternatives analysis" to search for other sites before installing solar panels on high-value farmland.
The bill received a hearing from the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee but on April 13, the committee's chair, Brian Clem, D-Salem, said it would go no further this legislative session.
"I think there is something there, but we're just not there yet," he said.
After speaking to both sides, Clem said he'd be putting together a work group to discuss commercial solar development on farmland.
Commercial solar facilities on high-value farmland are currently limited in size to 12 acres, unless developers perform an alternative analysis.
The Oregon Farm Bureau has gotten reports that farmers in the Willamette Valley are receiving solicitations from solar developers looking to lease land for projects.
The concern is that grouping of several solar projects will effectively sidestep the 12-acre limitation, converting high-value farmland and changing the agricultural character of some areas.
Critics also say that solar developers may drive up rent prices for farmland, competing with crops, even though there's a risk the projects won't be decommissioned.
However, representatives of the solar industry argued that existing rules are sufficient and that HB 3050 would impede Oregon requirements that utilities buy power from small-scale producers.