For the last few months, a bill to give New Jersey farmers more opportunity to install wind and solar power systems has been making headway in Trenton. But a story in the Star Ledger says that the measure, which has the support of the New Jersey Farm Bureau, has run into opposition from open-space groups as well as the State Board of Agriculture.
The crux of the issue revolves around land in the public trust and preserving the integrity of the farmland tax assessment. Some eager proponents of solar energy wanted to define photovoltaic systems as ‘farming’ because they take energy from the sun and convert it into usable energy for human consumption, much like plants, according to these proponents.
This argument was met with considerable resistance because farming involves much more than simply electrons, in the intricately woven web of life. Here at Upper Meadows Farm we installed a 4.1 Kw photovoltaic array for the house and have designed a 21Kw system for the farm buildings and packing shed. The larger system is currently on hold for a variety of reasons. Photovoltaic generation has gotten enough attention that the industry is much more rapidly developing and there are already significant increases in generation efficiency and materials. Nonethe less, all of the alternative energy generation in the US is still less than one percent of that generated by coal fired generators. The issues are complex to be sure.
It is clear to me that the best investment for a better future–financially, environmentally, socially, and globally–is in agriculture. Add renewable energy strategies to agriculture and you have a win-win-win.