Maine is in danger of losing some of its best agricultural land to solar farms

by Julia Bayly
October 16, 2021

There is a finite number of acres in Maine that can produce crops and support agricultural farms. Only 13 percent of the state is suitable farmland, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

In recent years, those acres have been targeted by solar farm developers. The most desirable land for large solar farms is at least 25 acres, flat, open to the sun, easily accessible by good roads and near existing power lines.

In other words, land that is perfect for farming.

Now a group — formed as a result of legislation last summer — will make policy recommendations that balance the need to protect Maine’s current and future farmland against the need to develop sources of renewable energy.

There’s no official data on how much farmland has already been converted to solar farms. In 2020, 88 percent of the 335 solar farm pre-applications submitted to the Maine Natural Areas Program included high-quality farmland. That’s a potential loss of 14,949 acres of Maine’s nearly 2.9 million acres of available farmland.

This land — referred to as prime farmland, or soils of statewide importance — has soil with the best physical and chemical characteristics to produce food, animal feed and forage crops. The designation is determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The 2020 numbers from the Maine Natural Areas Program do not include acreage for solar developments of fewer than 20 acres, since those do not need to go through the same state permitting process. It also only represents the total acreage reviews, not those approved for development.

“Yes, we have seen farms lost to solar development [and] more data is needed to accurately track and capture what has been developed and what’s in the pipeline,” said Nancy McBrady, director of the Maine Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources.

The group tasked with making policy recommendations — the Agriculture Solar Stakeholders Group — includes state officials, farmers, municipal officials and representatives of the solar industry, and was created by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the Governor’s Energy Office. It grew from the state’s four-year climate action plan that looks at how Maine should address climate change immediately.

Part of the action plan both reduces greenhouse gas emissions and increases local food production.

In some cases, those two goals have found themselves at odds with each other.

New Gloucester farmer Carl Wilcox has lost count of the number of inquiries he’s gotten from solar developers interested in his land.

“I’m kind of a small-time farmer here and I’ve gotten multiple inquiries about putting up a solar farm on my land,” Wilcox said.

“What the solar farms are after is farmland right next to the road. They want the land that is easiest to get to and develop and that can be some of the best farmland.”

Wilcox said most of the inquiries he’s gotten have come by mail and have ended up in his wastebasket. But he said he has hung on to the last one he got, though he has not decided how or if he will proceed with the request to place a solar array on his property.

Wilcox fears that the more prime farmland and important soils are taken out of food production, the more farmers will have to rely on more marginal land that is less ideal for crops.

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Maine ethics watchdog turn back CMP allies’ request to investigate corridor foe

Maine’s campaign finance watchdog rejected a request from Central Maine Power Co. allies to investigate a top opponent of their $1 billion corridor project over a large contribution from a political group she runs to a nonprofit she also runs.

The Maine Ethics Commission called a snap meeting on Friday afternoon to handle the complaint from the CMP-run political committee Clean Energy Matters accusing Sandra Howard, who leads the nonprofit Say No to NECEC, of failing to register as a political action committee after records showed the group received $140,000 from an affiliated group.

The 4-1 vote of the commission means it will not investigate the anti-corridor side during the last three weeks of a referendum campaign that has drawn more than $60 million in spending. Opponents are aiming to kill the project by passing Question 1 on the Nov. 2 ballot, while CMP backs a no vote.

Records filed with the commission show that Say No to NECEC, which does not have to disclose donors or spending, received $140,000 from No CMP Corridor on Sept. 23 for signs and entrance fees to fairs. The latter group, which is also directed by Howard, got most of its money from a separate committee funded by power companies that will lose shares of the regional power market if the hydropower corridor is built.

Clean Energy Matters lawyer Newell Augur argued the payment could be seen as supporting efforts to influence opinions on Question 1, insinuating the money could have come from the committee funded by fossil fuel companies. He requested the Maine Ethics Commission immediately investigate whether Say No to NECEC must file with the state as a political group.

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Comment by Willem Post on October 25, 2021 at 5:43pm
My two comments on Watt is up with That


This is wonderful.

CCC, a bunch of RE idiots trying to pull the wool over the eyes of innocent, gullible lay people, got caught lying and obfuscating big-time.

CCC, which advises UK PM Johnson, aka, the UNRULY MOP, used 7 days of low wind in 2050, whereas the low-wind days were 65 in 2021, and 78 in 2016.
CCC wanted to make wind look extra, extra good.

More low-wind days means vastly greater CAPACITY, MW, of instantly available, reliable, low-cost, traditional power plants, which must be staffed, fueled, ready to operate, in good working order, as demanded by the UK grid operator, to fill in any wind (and solar) shortfalls; the UK has LOTS OF DAYS without sun, throughout the year.

Initially, CCC was obstructing the public release of its report to THE UNRULY MOP
CCC was ordered by the Court to release the report to the public.

Are you f….g kidding me?
We are talking hundreds of millions of small folks spending $TRILLIONS EACH YEAR, to “save the world”, and CCC is blatantly lying about the feasibility and cost!
These CCC people should be drawn and quartered.


BTW, every wind turbine draws significant electricity from the grid, whether it is producing or not.
Great graph.

It clearly shows, the capacity’s factor of wind very often is less than 10%
The average CF is about 30%.

It is important to note wind power is the cube of wind speed 

In addition, at very low CFs, say 3 to 4%, with winds at 4 mph and less, the wind turbine is producing about as much as it is consuming, i.e., no net feed to the grid. Yikes

The graph shows a lot of red at low CFs, meaning onshore winds are frequently very weak.

The RE clowns at CCC are of-the-charts fabricators of lies.

They should be drawn and quartered

Comment by Willem Post on October 21, 2021 at 11:59am



Any transition from fossil fuels to low-CO2 sources, such as wind, solar, nuclear, hydro and biomass, could occur only when the low-CO2 sources are: 1) abundantly available everywhere, and 2) at low-cost, say 5 to 6 c/kWh, wholesale, and 3) as reliable as fossil fuels, 24/7/365, year after year. 


This article presents the all-in cost of wind, solar and battery systems in the US Northeast.

Table 1 shows the all-in cost of wind and solar are much greater than reported by the Media, etc.


Much of the cost is shifted from Owners of these systems to taxpayers and ratepayers, and added to government debts 




Simplified Mortgage Method


This method can be applied to Electric Vehicles, Heat Pumps, Electric Buses, Wind Systems, Solar Systems, Battery Systems, etc.


The minimum annual carrying cost of a house, or an energy system, is “paying the mortgage”.

With regard to a house, all other costs, such as real estate taxes, heating, cooling, maintenance, etc., are in addition.


An energy system must have annual revenues = “Paying the mortgage” + “All other costs”

Any shortage of revenues must be made up by subsidies.


The less an energy system is able to “pay for itself”, the more the subsidies.

Subsidies can be reductions in the upfront turnkey capital costs

Subsidies can be reductions of some items of “All other costs”

Subsidies can be paying for the electricity production in excess of market prices


A house, after paying the mortgage, likely is worth more than in Year 1.

However, wind, solar, and battery systems have useful service lives of about 20, 25, and 15 years, respectively.

Thereafter, they still perform at lesser outputs for some time, but their financial value is near zero.


Complicated Spreadsheet Method


A more exact analysis of the economics of an energy system would involve a spreadsheet with many rows and at least 25 columns (for solar), one for each year. It would involve Present Values, Internal Rates of Return, Levelized Costs of Energy, etc.


GMP, VT-DPS, VT-PUC, etc., have such spreadsheets, as do I. They would be much too complicated to present here.




Cost Shifting from Owners to Ratepayers and Taxpayers


The owning and operating cost of wind, solar and battery systems, c/kWh, is reduced by about 45%, due to subsidies. However, because no cost ever disappears, per Economics 101, the subsidy costs are “socialized”, i.e., added, in one way or another, onto:


1) Rate bases of utilities, i.e., paid by ratepayers

2) Taxpayers, by means of extra taxes, fees and surcharges on electric bills and fuel bills

3) Government budgets

4) Government debt

5) Prices of goods and services, other than electricity


If the subsidies had to be paid by Owners of wind and solar systems, the contract prices paid to Owners would need to be:

- At least 19.3 c/kWh, instead of 11 c/kWh, for large-scale solar

- At least 15.5 c/kWh, instead of 9 c/kWh, for ridge line wind. See table 1 and URL 


Shifting Grid Costs


Many small-scale solar systems and/or a few large-scale solar systems on a distribution grid would excessively disturb the grid, especially at midday. Battery systems could counteract those output variations.


Wind and solar systems could not be connected to any grid without the peaking, filling-in and counteracting services of the CCGT plants, i.e., shutting down CCGT plants, and artificially diminishing/obstructing their gas supply, advocated by pro RE folks, would not be an option for decades, if ever, because of the high costs of site-specific, custom-designed, utility-grade battery systems.


Costs not paid by wind/solar Owners:


- The cost of extension/augmentation of electric grids to connect widely distributed wind and solar systems

 - The cost of services rendered by other generators, mostly CCGT plants, which counteract the variable, intermittent outputs of wind and solar, 24/7/365

 - The cost of battery systems to stabilize distribution grids, due to variations of the solar and wind system outputs


Shifting Owning and Operating Costs


The combined effect of cost shifting, determined behind closed doors, increases a project’s annual cash flow, i.e., “left-over-money”, to provide an ample profit for the RE system Owner.


RE system Owners are happy, having the “ears” of friendly politicians, saving the world from climate change, and claiming: “See, my project is profitable and competitive”, while everyone else gets hosed.


1) Grants from various sources, such as the VT Clean Energy Development Fund

2) 26% federal investment tax credits, plus state FITs. Tax credits reduce, dollar-for-dollar, the taxes GMP pays on profits

3) 100% depreciation over 5 years; the normal for utilities is 20 to 25 years. Write-offs reduce GMP taxable income

4) Deductions of interest on borrowed money. Interest deductions reduce GMP taxable income.

5) Various O&M payments are often waved, such as sales tax, fees, property tax, school tax, municipal tax, etc.

6) RE system Owners sell their output at two to four times NE wholesale rates




Pro RE folks always point to the “price paid to owner” as the cost of wind and solar, purposely ignoring the other cost categories. The all-in cost of wind and solar, c/kWh, includes:


1) Above-market-price paid to Owners 

2) Subsidies paid to Owners

3) Owner return on invested capital at about 9%/y

4) Grid extension/augmentation

5) Grid support services

6) Future battery systems


Comments on table 1


- Vermont legacy SO solar systems had greater subsidies, up to 30 c/kWh paid to owner, than newer systems, about 11 c/kWh


- Wind prices paid to owner did not have the drastic reductions as solar prices.


- Vermont utilities are paid about 3.5 c/kWh for various costs they incur regarding net-metered solar systems


- "Added to the rate base" is the cost wind and solar are added to the utility rate base, used to set electric rates.


- “Total cost”, including subsidies to owner and grid support, is the cost at which wind/solar are added to the utility rate base


- “NE utility cost” is the annual average cost of purchased electricity, about 6 c/kWh, plus NE grid operator charges, about 1.6 c/kWh

for a total of 7.6 c/kWh.


"Utility cost" is the annual average price paid for electricity by a utility, about 6 c/kWh,

- “Grid support costs” would increase with increased use of battery systems to counteract the variability and intermittency of increased build-outs of wind and solar systems.



1) NE wholesale grid price averaged about 5 c/kWh or less, starting in 2009, due to low-cost CCGT and nuclear plants providing at least 65% of all electricity loaded onto the NE grid, in 2019.


- Wind, solar, landfill gas, and methane power plants provided about 4.8%

- Pre-existing refuse and wood power plants provided about 4.6%

- Pre-existing hydro power plants provided about 7.4%

- The rest was mostly hydro imports from the very-low-CO2 Canada grid, and from the much-higher-CO2 New York State grid

2) There are Owning and Operating costs of the NE grid, in addition to utility wholesale prices.

ISO-NE pro-rates these O&O costs to utilities, at about 1.6 c/kWh.


3) NE charges are for: 

Regional network services, RNS, based on the utility peak demand occurring during a month

Forward capacity market, FCM, based on the utility peak demand occurring during a year.


Table 1/Vermont & NE sources

Paid to


Grid support*


 Added to


NE utility



to owner



rate base










Solar, residential rooftop, net-metered, new









Solar, residential rooftop, net-metered, legacy









Solar, com’l/ind’l, standard offer, combo








Solar, com’l/ind’l, standard offer, legacy








Wind, ridge line, new








Wind, offshore, new









* Excludes future battery costs, and floating offshore wind turbines

* Owner prices to utilities are based on recent 20-year electricity supply contracts awarded by competitive bidding in New England. These prices would have been about 48% to 50% higher without the direct and indirect subsidies and the cost shifting. Similar percentages apply in areas with better wind and solar conditions, and lower construction costs/MW, than New England. The prices, c/MWh, in those areas are lower than New England.


Solar and Wind Impacts on Electric Grids


High voltage and distribution grids, in Vermont and elsewhere, have been, and still are, entirely adequate to provide Vermonters with electricity, 24/7/365.


However, connecting wind and solar systems to the grids requires: 1) extensions to connect them to the grids and 2) upgrades to reinforce the grids, to deal with their weather/season-dependent variability and intermittency, 3) battery systems to deal with midday solar output surges.

Wind and solar have a perverse tendency to produce when all of their outputs are not needed!!


Almost none of the extension/upgrade costs are charged to the Owners of wind and solar systems, as otherwise NE wind and solar would become even more expensive to own and operate, which would “rain on the wind and solar parade”.


Basic Rule Applicable to All Grids


Normal wind and solar output could be 10,000 MW. During a wind/solar lull, it could be 1,000 MW, such as at night. Such lulls may last 5 to 7 days, and may occur any time of the year. Sometimes a second multi-day lull occurs a few days after the first one.


At least 9,000 MW of other reliable generators, not wind/solar dependent, would be need to be staffed, fueled and ready to operate at a moment’s notice, to counteract any wind/solar shortfalls. These generators would have to supply enough electricity, not supplied by wind and solar, to meet demand, 24/7/365

Comment by Nancy Sosman on October 19, 2021 at 9:56am

Wall Street’s Takeover of Nature Advances with Launch of New Asset Class - Global ResearchGlobal Research - Centre for Research on Globalization

Comment by Kenneth Capron on October 18, 2021 at 12:22am

Hey Penny - good point. There must be some teensy weensy bacteria that eats silicon. Now where did I put my childhood chemistry set? I can find bacteria in the State House.

Comment by Kenneth Capron on October 18, 2021 at 12:18am

I watched those proceedings. The Commissioners came in with their bias and didn't seem too interested in the facts. It would have been quite a feat for Newell to win the case just because of the pre-existing bias. 

This was a clear example of creating dummy companies just to make it look like the opposition is bigger than it is.

Comment by Robert Powers on October 17, 2021 at 9:11pm

And that will be nothing compared to the MAJOR wind farms in Aroostook county and the Blueberry barrens...there will be a mixture of wind and solar power projects on the same acreage...major changes in the landscape...towns will back these projects for the tax revenues...after theTIFs expire!

The proposed and quiet list is huge!

Comment by Penny Gray on October 17, 2021 at 7:53pm

You can't eat solar panels.  Food for thought.


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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We have the facts on our side. We have the truth on our side. All we need now is YOU.

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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

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