Know what questions to ask before leasing your land for a solar farm
If you’re a farmer or landowner looking to lease your land for a solar farm, you may have a ton of questions about the process. This is completely normal, as most people don’t have enough experience with the solar industry to make an informed decision to lease their land for a solar project.
Your go-to resource throughout the process will be the same one as is offering the lease, your solar developer, land agent or broker, which makes it all the more important you take the time to inform yourself before signing.
From the get-go, you should choose someone who is willing to work with you to make sure you’re both on the same page, especially when you’re signing a lease to land that you own.
To help you know what to discuss with your solar developer, we’ve provided the top five questions you should be asking before deciding to lease your land for a solar farm.
A quick side note: Solar Developer vs. Broker
There is a key difference between leasing land to a solar project developer versus a broker or land agent.
Solar project developers have a vested interest in getting the project completed and because of that, want to build a long-term relationship with you. In contrast, the brokers or land agents are just to looking to buy or lease your land with as little interaction as possible to just get the job done.
1. How long does the process take when getting a land lease for a solar farm and what does it involve?
The process of developing solar on leased land requires a few steps before a project is operational. Reputable solar developers will take the time to go through this process with landowners to make sure they know what it will require. The process goes like this:
- Selecting and assessing the land: proximity to a three-phase power line and substation, and the terrain are all factors we look at when assessing your land and before we offer a lease.
- Planning the location and clarifying the impacts on property
- Permitting and ensuring that the land can be built on and does not break any rules or environmental regulations
- Building and installing the solar farm, which can take three months to a year
- Connecting to the grid and generating clean power for the next 25 years.
This whole process takes some time overall, but through all five steps your solar developer should be keeping in touch with you, updating you if necessary, and ensuring that everyone is comfortable and on the same page.
What is it really like to go through construction of a solar panel project? Watch the video and hear first-hand from one of our landowners in Jefferson County, New York
2. Will the solar farm development interfere with our farming operations?
The development process should not interfere with your farming operations. The process we outlined above often occurs offsite and requires minimal ground time from surveyors or other officials. Apart from annual maintenance visits, your day-to-day living shouldn’t be interrupted once the solar farm is operational.
With that being said, during the construction of the solar farm, you may see heavier traffic depending on the location of the solar project. As with any construction, materials will need to be delivered and workers will be onsite to build the project.
Some landowners see construction as an exciting time. The solar panels are rising up right before their eyes and they have a check in their pocket.
3. What are the lease rates per acre for a solar farm?
When you receive an offer to lease your land for a solar farm, you will generally get a set amount per year per acre.
For some farmers, selling the land outright to a solar project developer is the more attractive option, but they are in the minority.
The amount of money you can possibly get from your land has a wide range based on proximity to the substation and capacity, among others. Some companies will offer rates that are at the very high end in order to lock up land but with no real intention of developing your parcel. A realistic estimate is between $600 to $1,500 but there are often very good reasons for going outside of that range.
When you have a lease offer in hand, ask why they are offering that amount. They should have an answer ready at hand. Going for the highest lease amount isn’t automatically the best idea, but you may be able to get a little more for your land. Be sure to talk this through with your solar developer and understand what the amounts mean for you.
Are you facing multiple offers? How do you know which one is the right choice? Watch the video and learn how this landowner made his choice.
4. Can you show me other solar farm projects you’ve done?
When considering signing a lease with a solar developer, you want to ensure that they know what they’re doing. If the solar developer cannot point to any solar energy projects, this could be a red flag. They may have just started in the solar industry or worse, they don’t have the knowledge or expertise to get the project to construction.
It’s important to ask your developer how many projects they have brought to operational – having a track record of completed projects is a great indicator of a reputable solar developer. They should have no issue with providing a list of operational projects and may even have a list on their website, which you should take the time to view in any case.
When agreeing to sign up for a long-term lease, you want to make sure that your solar developer signs leases with the intent of developing a project instead of holding vast areas of land with no intent to follow through with their promises.
5. How do I know you are the developer to go with when considering leasing my land for a solar farm?
A good, reputable solar developer should keep you informed throughout the whole process. Along with this, they should recognize that for you, this is a big decision. No reputable solar developer will exert undue pressure on you to sign a contract without giving you time to review the lease with a lawyer, if you so choose.
Throughout the process of a solar project, solar developers work with you to ensure that you are always kept in the loop. You should be their number one priority because it is your land that will be used for a solar farm.
We always encourage our clients to ask us questions so we can address their concerns, and we encourage them to keep in touch with any queries they might have. We strive to build a long-lasting bond with those who lease their land to us, and any solar developer you choose should do the same.
To recap, when solar companies are visiting you onsite, remember to use this time to ask any questions or address any concerns you may have about the project.
The five questions we’ve listed above will give you a good starting point for any other inquiries you may have. Your solar developer should want you to be fully comfortable with your decision and should want to build a relationship with you.