Struggling Farms Lease Land To Solar Generation Companies, Which Provide Them Financial Fuel To Keep Producing Agriculture


WESTTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Farm fields that once grew food to fuel our bodies, now generate fuel to power our homes.

The technology is rapidly sprouting on hundreds of acres in the far northern suburbs, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Tuesday.

Instead of waves of corn, there are ribbons of glass and steel on an Orange County farm, capturing the power of the sun and feeding it into the grid that powers our region.

“Which is what farming always is — the income off the land. This is just another way of doing it,” Lewis Lain said.

Lain’s family has farmed this corner of Orange County for almost 250 years.

Farmers in the northern suburbs of NYC are leasing their land to solar generation companies. (Photo: CBS2)

“The dairy used to be in the barn right here. (This) is where we kept the cows,” Lain said.

The dairy business is collapsing and the Lains have seen dozens of smaller operations go under. The income from leasing land to a solar generation company allows them to stay in the farming business.

“Twenty acres is being used for the solar. That keeps 220 open for agriculture, and not houses,” Lain said.

“We seem to be the hot spot for solar farms, what we call ‘solar installations’,” Orange County Planning Commissioner David Church added.

MOREEast Hampton Moving Closer To Completion Of Solar Farm

Church said more than three dozen solar installations of various sizes are planned for local farms.

“There are willing utility companies here, and there’s land that’s available at relatively affordable cost,” Church said.

This is called “community distributed generation.” Instead of putting solar panels on the roof of a home, customers of Orange and Rockland Utilities can subscribe to receive credit for the power generated in the fields.

The projects will help New York state towards an incredibly ambitious goal set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo — 70-percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030.

Energy from the sun is becoming financial fuel for local farm families.

A state incentive program gives a discount to customers who sign up for power from these solar installations. It can save them hundreds of dollars a year. But it’s not clear how long the incentives will be offered.