renewable energy

Solar and wind farms generate controversy but occupy a sliver of rural land

Local governments have imposed at least 2,600 restrictions on wind and solar power projects in their jurisdictions, with local opposition seeming to rise with the size of the project, said a USDA report on wind and solar development in rural areas. Wind and solar projects had a combined footprint of 423,974 acres in 2020, or 0.05 percent of the nation's 870 million acres of farmland, said the four economists who wrote the report.

Substantial oil, gas, and wind payments go to a sliver of farmers

A fraction of U.S. farmers, about 3.5 percent, receive payments for oil, gas, and wind energy production on their land, and those payments provide “substantial income,” said a USDA report. With the growth of wind and solar energy, a wider array of farmers could benefit from the payments, now centered in the Great Plains, said the Economic Research Service.

Use ‘non-prime’ farmland for renewable energy, says Vilsack

At the same time he announced $2.2 billion in loans and loan guarantees for rural electric cooperatives, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledged on Wednesday fears that U.S. farmland will be covered by wind turbines and solar collectors. "We know that there are some concerns out there about whether renewable energy will overtake prime farmland," he said.

Common offer to lease farmland for solar panels: $1,000 an acre

More than half of large U.S. farmers say they have been offered at least $1,000 an acre during discussions about planting solar panels instead of crops on their land, said a Purdue University poll released on Tuesday. Bids have climbed rapidly since 2021, when the most common offer was less than $750 an acre.

USDA announces grants for underutilized renewable technology

The USDA will offer $144 million in grants to help farmers install under-utilized renewable energy technology, such as small-scale windmills, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. The clean energy equipment could reduce costs and increase income, said the USDA.

Ethanol is just inefficient solar energy. Time to bring the real thing to Iowa.

In FERN’s latest story, published with The New Republic, Tom Philpott makes the case for replacing corn grown for ethanol, in Iowa and elsewhere, with fields of solar panels. “For all the backbiting and vitriol, the main candidates in the recent Iowa GOP presidential caucus agreed on a lot …

Cost-share grants for rural renewable energy

The USDA will award up to $1 billion in grants to help farmers and rural small businesses install renewable energy systems or make energy-efficiency improvements to their property, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

With eye on second-generation biofuels, EPA proposes 10 percent increase in RFS

The EPA proposed a 10 percent increase, mostly reserved for cleaner-burning “advanced” biofuels, over three years in the federal mandate to mix biofuels into the U.S. gasoline supply, and said it would expand the Renewable Fuel Standard to include electricity generated from biogas and used in electric vehicles. The proposal, announced Thursday, would mean greater use of E15 and other blends of corn ethanol above the traditional 10 percent, said ethanol groups.

USDA announces pilot program for renewable energy in rural towns

Up to $10 million is available to help residents of rural towns develop community renewable energy projects that will reduce their energy costs, said the USDA on Wednesday. Funding from the new Rural Energy Pilot Program will be targeted at communities that have been historically underserved by the government.

Cellulosic ethanol plant is retooled for renewable natural gas

Verbio North America says it will more than double the capacity of its plant in central Iowa to produce renewable natural gas from corn stover, and it plans to begin production of corn ethanol in the final months of the year. The facility was the first of three plants in the nation to return to biofuel production after faltering as a producer of cellulosic ethanol, made from grasses, woody plants and crop residue.

USDA to invest $464 million in renewable energy infrastructure in rural communities

The USDA will invest $464 million to strengthen electric service in rural communities through smart-grid technology and help agricultural producers and businesses add renewable energy systems to lower energy costs and build climate-smart energy capacity in 48 states and Puerto Rico, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday. 

Opinion: The sustainable-energy future has room for biofuels as well as electric vehicles

With the Biden administration and the major U.S. automakers investing heavily in electric vehicles, rural Americans — especially those connected to farming — are concerned about the future of biofuels. Given that ethanol, primarily made from corn, is blended with the gasoline that powers the vast majority of the nation’s vehicles, the prospect of replacing gasoline with electricity has enormous implications for the rural economy. In 2019, the global biofuels market amounted to over $136 billion.(No paywall)

House, Senate bills boost rural energy funding fivefold

The USDA program that promotes rural renewable energy production and energy efficiency would see annual funding of $250 million along with a $1 billion injection to address a backlog in applications under companion Senate and House bills introduced Thursday.

In public lands proposal, Warren seeks moratorium on drilling leases, free entry to national parks

Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced her public lands policy platform on Monday, which includes an end to new fossil fuel drilling leases and an expansion of renewable energy production. Meanwhile, candidate Bernie Sanders said he supports imposing a moratorium on agribusiness mergers.

Smithfield aims for manure digesters, not lagoons, in three states

In order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, Smithfield Foods set a target on Thursday of equipping 90 percent of its hog-finishing facilities in three states with manure-to-energy digesters to capture biogas for eventual sale as renewable natural gas.

Trump backs biofuels but industry wants to see it in EPA rules

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says President Trump affirmed his commitment to biofuels during a telephone conversation amid Midwestern fears of a weaker Renewable Fuels Standard in 2018. Despite encouraging words from Trump and the EPA, the head of an Iowa group said biofuel backers won't rest until the EPA announces its final decision, due by Nov. 30.

‘Solar gardens’ sprout in southern Minnesota

A trade group for solar power says installation of solar panels is surging in southern Minnesota, especially in utility-scale projects, reports The Associated Press. In one instance, a farmer decided to lease a rocky eight-acre field for installation of solar panels with a total capacity of 1 megawatt of electricity and an annual rental payment that is "a lot more" than it was generating as a cattle pasture.

Solar farms, and farmers, create political sparks

As costs have dropped, solar panels are becoming a common sight, including in rural America, where farmers are using solar to offset their costs in a variety of ways, says Civil Eats. When farmers move beyond generating electricity for farmstead use into acres of solar panels, it creates a tussle between clean energy and preservation of open spaces for forests and farms, according to a news site in Connecticut, where solar has the upper hand.

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