“Dual-Use” or “agrovoltaics” — a big “experiment” exploiting our farmland for corporate solar projects

Massachusetts and other states are promoting industrial solar facilities on farm land claiming that using the land for “dual” purposes – making electricity and growing food — are compatible land uses. There is no proof of this – the cranberry industry and Blue Wave solar, one of the big corporations promoting this idea — all admit this is “experimental.” Why then did Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) approve the “dual use” project in Carver – a $53 million private venture when it can’t be proven that cranberries will grow under the solar panels? Worse yet, when it was discovered that Pine Gate/NextSun/Synergy Energy did a bait and switch, installing arsenic-treated poles in the ground to mount the panels DOER looked the other way claiming it was the Town’s problem.

Taxpayer funds are being used to help private corporations justify these programs. DOER and the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture work together on this. They funnel money — grants and staff time — to UMass programs to provide research for the private solar companies.

The UMass Clean Energy Extension “was established with funds from the Department of Energy Resources” and works in partnership with DOER “to help it fulfill its mission and programmatic activities to promote clean energy.” https://ag.umass.edu/clean-energy/about/state-partner (accessed 11/8/2021)  With taxpayer funding, UMass undertakes a wide range of activities to support privately owned solar companies, including studying how solar PV panels affect crop production under the panels.  The UMass Cranberry Station is using DOER funds conducting pilot projects and experiments to assist privately owned solar companies like PineGate Renewables, owner of the $53 million project in Carver putting toxic poles in cranberry bogs. https://ag.umass.edu/clean-energy/dual-use-solar-pv-cranberry-production https://ag.umass.edu/clean-energy/dual-use-solar-pv-cranberry-production The Cranberry Station is seeking a $1 million taxpayer grant to help the solar and cranberry industries justify “dual use” solar on cranberry bogs.

Here’s what farmer Fred Beddall from Northampton, Mass. has to say about DOER’s dual use solar program:

On October 27, 2921, the Northampton (MA) Agricultural Commission issued a statement on “Dual Use Solar Development on Prime Agricultural Lands.” The Commission supports renewable energy but doesn’t think we need to “sacrifice our best agricultural land to meet our energy goals.” The Commission opposes the industry’s Senate Bill 590 seeking more subsidies for ground-mounted solar projects on farmland. Read the statement here.