Letter to the editor: Solar arrays, agriculture are not incompatible uses

I was glad to read in the Dec. 3, 2018, issue of the Addison Independent about the testing being done to grow saffron amongst solar arrays. Many times I’ve seen people write or talk about solar arrays removing land from agricultural production. While that may be true for dairy and beef cows or for hay and corn, and while those large scale agricultural endeavors are important to our local economy, they are not the only kinds of agriculture.
Commercial or residential developments strip away topsoil for buildings, driveways, and parking lots. Those kinds of development more or less permanently encumber former agricultural land and its productivity. Conversely, solar arrays leave the topsoil under those arrays largely intact and productive. Arrays are spaced widely enough and there’s enough space around them that a lot of sunlight still reaches the ground during our growing season.
If we think more broadly beyond large-scale agriculture, there are certainly other smaller scale, high value agricultural outputs that could be suitable in and around solar arrays.
We already know from a first hand experience in Vergennes that sheep can be grazed amongst solar arrays. Low growing vegetable crops, flowers, pollinator-friendly crops, and even honeybee hives all would be suitable within the fenced in areas around solar arrays.
When we add high value saffron and other similar agricultural outputs to the list, it’s clear that the land under solar arrays is not at all lost to agricultural production. It just takes us thinking more broadly and it takes forward thinking solar companies like Peck Electric to make these high value agricultural endeavors happen.
Fred Putnam, Jr.

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