Making wise renewable energy and energy conservation investment decisions

Web-based educational resources available to farmers.

Solar array on the Langeland Farm in Ottawa County, Michigan.
Solar array on the Langeland Farm in Ottawa County, Michigan. Photo by Charles Gould, MSU Extension.

Investing in renewable energy and energy conservation measures requires careful consideration before making the investment. Michigan State University Extension, in collaboration with the Michigan Energy Office and Michigan Farm Bureau, sponsored a series of webinars with information farmers will find helpful in making wise financial decisions regarding solar projects. A brief description of each webinar series is provided below.

I. Leasing land for solar projects

In December 2017, policy changes by the Michigan Public Service Commission made utility-scale solar projects more profitable. This triggered aggressive solicitation by solar developers to lease or buy land owned by farmers for solar projects. Michigan State University Extension staff with lease agreement, tax and zoning expertise recorded two webinars that will help farmers understand the renewable energy landscape, nuances of solar leases, zoning considerations and accompanying tax implications associated with solar projects. The information provided will help farmers determine if a solar lease agreement is a sound financial decision for themselves and if it meets their community’s zoning regulations and future land use designation. The webinars and resource materials can be found here.

II. Investing in an on-farm solar project

The declining cost of equipment and installation makes installing a solar electric system enticing for farmers. Evaluating the financial prudence of an investment in solar requires careful consideration of installation costs, the value of production and operation and maintenance costs. A six part webinar series provides practical guidance to farmers who are considering investing in a solar electric system. The webinar series features two solar power experts, Eric Romich with Ohio State University Extension and John Hay with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. During the webinar series, Romich and Hay take a critical look at the investment required for a solar electric system so farmers can make a fully informed investment decision. The webinars can be found here.

III. Renewable energy and energy conservation farmer expertise

There is a great deal of energy efficiency and renewable energy expertise within the Michigan farming community. The purpose for this webinar series was to provide a forum where farmers, as content experts, give a 15-20 minute presentation on the impact of energy reduction and savings through the various energy efficiency and renewable energy practices they’ve implemented, talk about lessons learned, and then answer questions. Black Star Farms, a vineyard and equestrian center in Northern Michigan, and Grand Valley Farms, a dairy farm in Southern Michigan, are showcased in the webinar series. Case studies for each farm are provided. Webinar recordings and case studies can be found here.

If the information provided in the webinars and resource material does not answer your questions, feel free to contact Charles Gould, MSU Extension educator, at 616-994-4547 or

Did you find this article useful?