ADAMS COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM)– One farmer told me he believes solar panels can do more harm than good and he has a high-profile ally in the state senate.
“The question is the trade-off in doing it you’re actually destroying productive land which will never be farmed again and we only have so much of it,” owner of New Heart’s Old Spring Farm Tom Newhart said.
Senator Doug Mastriano introduced a bill to ban large-scale solar panel projects on prime farmlands but says he’s not against solar power overall.
“We support the solar industry and we support and love our farmers so let’s do smart things for both behind me we have class one and Class 2 fields here best farmlands in the country it doesn’t make any sense to plant 330,000 solar panels behind me in this land which won’t be farmed again probably for 30-40 fifty years once that happens,” Republican Senator Doug Mastriano, of Adams County, said.
Mastriano made his point in Adams County, but he found inspiration from Lancaster County. Two years ago, supervisors in Mount Joy Township shot down a proposal to build 330,000 solar panels across a thousand acres of farmland.
Newhart, who owns a farm with a bed and breakfast near Littlestown, says that’s exactly the kind of scenario he wants to avoid.
“We feel that we need to protect our farmland in order to guarantee our food supply for the citizens in Pennsylvania Little,” Newhart said.
PennFuture, an organization dedicated to building sustainable communities, worries the opposition to large-scale solar projects is short-sighted.
“Solar helps protect our health it saves us money and it brings down our greenhouse gas emissions,” Regan said.
Especially, PennFuture Campaign Director Annie Regan says, on farms.
“Thanks to the shade provided by the panels the soil can retain more water meaning it needs less irrigation and panels can also help protect crops from hail storms high winds and severe cold and heat making them less vulnerable to extreme weather events,” Regan said.
Mastriano insists there’s a right place for solar development but says farms are not it.
“We want to encourage solar development let’s take it to parking lots industrial fields you know landfills and any other brownfields that we call them that aren’t being used,” Mastriano said.
Mastriano’s bill would offer tax credits for large-scale solar projects at those kinds of alternative sites. It’s waiting for a hearing in the senate agriculture and rural affairs committee of which Mastriano is a member.