Land Leasing

Seeking: Land for Solar Farms

sun-moon-2.jpgMaine and New Hampshire’s solar policies recently became much friendlier to offsite solar farms, and now solar developers are looking for sites to develop. This offers a triple win for New England’s communities and economy:

  1. Economic opportunity for landowners and local farmers
  2. Economic and growth opportunity for local solar developers and their workers 
  3. Increased access to competitively priced, clean energy for recipients of solar

However, with this exciting opportunity comes potential pitfalls, especially from poor support, lack of due diligence, and improper planning. This guide highlights some of the top aspects ReVision Energy thinks all landowners should consider as they evaluate leasing their land for a solar project. We are prepared to help interested landowners pursue the opportunity in a manner that is beneficial and responsible.

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Historically, solar projects made the most sense to build at a solar recipient’s location, either directly on their roof or at an adjacent piece of land. While this works well for many kinds of projects, it excluded sites where rooftop solar was not a good fit. For example, a school might have too small of a roof to make a serious dent in their bill with a rooftop solar project. Thankfully, under Maine and New Hampshire's updated solar policies, the school can now bring the benefits of solar power to its community through a solar farm. 

What is a solar farm?

Soltage Acton ArrayWith a solar farm, an entity who wants solar can have solar built for them at an offsite solar farm. They’ll agree to purchase the power produced from the farm, which is all generated in an ideal solar location (hosted by a local landowner) and fed out to the grid. The solar farm recipient receives the numerous benefits of clean, solar energy, including a bill credit. 

Why would you want to host a solar farm?

Aside from growing your state's local solar to bring financial and environmental benefits to your community, hosting a solar farm is a unique economic opportunity for landowners to create a long-term, low-impact source of revenue. Entering a secure partnership with a local solar developer (like ReVision Energy) will ensure your land lease is financially viable while developed and maintained in a non-invasive, responsible manner. 

What kind of land is ideal to host a solar farm?

  • Relatively dry, non wetland habitat
  • Not ledgy or mountainous
  • Near 3-phase power (meaning there are three supply lines for electrical service, as opposed to a single line)
  • Unencumbered by mortgages or other deed restrictions

Are solar farms good for the land?

Solar farms are arguably the lowest impact form of power generation known to humanity. With little impact on the land or surrounding area, they also enable mutual land use alongside the solar farm:

Who is the typical recipient of a solar farm's energy?

  • Municipalities of all sizes – cities, towns, etc.
  • Quasi-municipal entities, e.g. water districts and schools
  • Businesses
  • Nonprofits with sizable electric loads
  • Individual residents

Solar farm leases offer recurring revenue to working farms seeking a diversified strategy.

While landowners face pitfalls if they sign up for a solar lease with poor terms (too little money for too much control of their land, etc.), it also provides an economic opportunity that is extremely helpful for rural Maine and New Hampshire working farms.

We share the belief of our allies in the environmental advocacy sector that solar farms are best sited on locations that are not prime farm soils. Many opportunities exist to build solar farms on old gravel pits, landfills, etc.

However, it’s also incorrect to suggest that the aims of agriculture and solar farms are antagonistic to each other. In fact, solar farms are compatible with pasture grazing and evidence from the work done in the UK suggests solar farms can be of higher agricultural value if marginal land is brought into productive grazing management than that of unmanaged field acreage. It also provides prime pollinator habitat.

The economics of running a small family farm in the 21st century are challenging, to say the least. Aging farmers are struggling to figure out how to pass their farm to the next generation, even if there is a younger person eager to take on the farm. Farming is a slim margin business at the best of times, and is especially stressed now in an era of punishing tariffs and escalating fuel costs.

In this context, solar farms offer an attractive, low-impact revenue source for farmers and other landowners. Solar farms can potentially be multi-use, and require little to any maintenance (what maintenance is needed is generally the responsibility of the solar developer). What the landowner gives up in limited amount of acreage provides reliable annual revenue that can range into the $10,000s.


curravale-solar-farm-600x434.jpgIn order for there to be a solar farm, there needs to be a parcel of land on which to build it. This means solar developers and landowners need to develop solar land leases.

While there’s a lot of detail to it, at its heart a solar land lease is a legal document wherein a landowner grants rights for specific kinds of development to a solar developer in exchange for monetary benefits. But, “here be dragons.” As Maine and New Hampshire’s solar markets improved, they’ve attracted solar developers nationwide who may not be committed to our region long-term, or who may not care to develop land responsibly.

With a hot ‘land grab’ going on, ReVision recommends all landowners use common-sense and proper due diligence before entering into a land option with a solar developer.

Here are some of the questions all landowners should be asking solar developers:

  • Who are you and what is your track record in Maine/New Hampshire? How long do you expect to be in this market? Will you be here 20 years from now?
  • Help me understand this land lease. What happens in the event you do not end up actually building a solar farm? What happens if I want to get out of this lease? How long is the lease actually for?
  • Who are you (the person selling me the lease)? Are you compensated based on meeting a quota? Are you selling this lease on behalf of another party? If you disappear, and there’s an issue, who will I talk to for help?

ReVision Energy’s origins are in this part of New England. We have a long track record as a community partner in Maine and New Hampshire stretching for more than 15 years. We were the first company to figure out how to offer community solar farms under previous (more onerous) policy and have always been focused on building projects where the benefits are widely shared, not ones that disproportionately benefit the developer.

ReVision-Energy-Installers-offsite-solar-1.jpegEvery one of our dedicated employee-owners is deeply committed to responsibly taking advantage of the economic and environmental opportunity unlocked by recent modernization of Maine and New Hampshire’s solar policies, and bringing the benefits of those opportunities to our local residents and communities.

Unlike developers “from away,” we have a vested interest in seeing our local communities prosper because we live and work here. Everyone you’ll meet at our company is literally an owner. We are driven to do this work because we want to see Maine and New Hampshire transition away from fossil fuels, not because conditions looked ideal on an Excel spreadsheet.

We’re driven by our mission – to lead New England’s solar transition – but also to support you, the landowner, in accomplishing your goals around managing your land for the long-term, whether that be for conservation, working farm, or other ends.

We’re grateful for you to consider us as a partner as you look at a land option on your property, we promise to:

  • Only enter into an agreement for a land option if there is very strong likelihood that we’ll follow through and develop the solar project.
  • Communicate with you at every step of the way and have our amazing team of employee-owners at the ready should questions arise throughout this journey.
  • Explain what it is that’s in our solar land option and not sneak in confusing legalese provisions.
  • Never present an option to you that we would not be comfortable having a friend, relative, or neighbor sign.

If you are interested in helping us grow New England's clean energy future by being a land host, please fill out the form below. A member of our Land Leasing team will be in touch shortly. Thank you!

Name
Contact info
Available Land Address(The land needs to be located in Maine or New Hampshire.)
Land available for solar(we are looking for sites that can host 3+ acre solar farms)
What's the current land cover of the property?(an open site is ideal, but we can clear forested sites, too)
How close are the nearest power lines?(we install grid-tied systems, which means they must be located near the existing grid)
Are those power lines three phase service?(the scale of projects we build generally require three phase service to operate)
Does the property contain significant wetlands, or is it subject to shoreland zoning?(wetland and shoreland areas typically represent sensitive and valuable habitats, which limit the development potential of a site)
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What questions do you have about hosting a solar farm?