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The Debate: Where to Locate Solar Energy Facilities

Should they go on farm land, roof tops, or somewhere else?

· land use law,alternative energy,farmland,jackson county,LUBA

By: Will Van Vactor

A recent Land Use Board of Appeal ("LUBA") decision reversing approval of a solar farm on farmland in Jackson County, prompted someone to ask "where should we locate solar energy facilities?" In response, Medford's Mail Tribune explained some of the difficulties people and businesses face when placing solar facilities. For example, when looking to place solar panels on roofs, it is common for the lifespan of the roof and the solar panels to be different. You don't want to install a solar panel array with a 30-year lifespan, just to tear it down in 10 years to replace the roof.

The LUBA decision that prompted the above question, 1000 Friends of Oregon v. Jackson County, dealt with the siting of a solar power facility on 80 acres of land zoned for exclusive farm use. Amongst other reasons, opponents did not believe high-value farmland should be converted to a solar energy facility. Ultimately, LUBA reversed the Jackson County decision because it concluded that the industrial development of rural land couldn't be justified.

As the LUBA case and the Mail Tribune article show, alternative energy developers face challenges when locating energy facilities. Developing alternative energy is important. So is preserving farmland for current and future generations. For these reasons, where to locate alternative energy facilities can be a difficult question.

Van Vactor Law is a Bend, Oregon based land use law firm. Will Van Vactor is an Oregon land use attorney.

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Alternative energy on farmland.
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