Related ATTRA Publication:
Renewable Energy Opportunities on the Farm
Michigan Technological University researchers say that converting tobacco fields to solar farms could increase landowner profitability by thousands of dollars per acre and reduce health risks, all without removing arable land from food production. Using farmland for energy production is often controversial because it could reduce food supplies and raise costs. However, with tobacco demand in decline, tobacco fields could offer an energy-production opportunity. This research showed that solar energy production becomes increasingly more profitable as energy costs rise and solar-production cost drops. However, the researchers say they were "surprised to find that because the cost of solar has dropped so dramatically it is already economically advantageous for tobacco farmers to replace tobacco with solar in many situations." The solar panels are also more resistant to climate variation than are plant crops.