June 3rd, 2019
Governor Whitmer and MDARD Director Gary McDowell rolled out a decision on June 3 to allow open land protected under the MDARD’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program to be utilized for commercial solar energy arrays. Designed to conserve farmland and open space, the program provides tax incentives to landowners who commit to leaving their land undeveloped for non-agricultural purposes. Solar arrays represent a unique opportunity for this space because their footprint allows for pollinator habitat and cover crops to be grown underneath the panels, while allowing for 100% removal and remediation following the end of the productive life of the installation. This decision amends the Farmland Development Rights program to allow solar while deferring tax credits until the solar array reaches the end of its lifespan, provided the land is returned to agricultural use. Almost 3.4 million acres of Michigan farm land are enrolled in this program. The change will make it easier to deploy new solar projects even as developers are facing increasing local siting challenges.