Bill restricting solar panels on productive farmland advances in Iowa Senate


Bill restricting solar panels on productive farmland advances in Iowa Senate

Iowa Republicans on the Senate Ag Committee have approved a bill that would forbid energy companies, including Rural Electric Cooperatives, from installing solar panels on land suitable for growing corn and soybeans.

Senator Dan Zumbach of Ryan says he sponsored the bill because of a rapidly expanding solar farm in his district.

“It’s about protecting our most precious resource, and that’s Iowa’s farmland.”

If the bill becomes law, solar panel fields would also have to be at least a half mile from other solar installations and more than 1,200 feet from a neighbor’s property line.

Senator Kevin Kinney, a Democrat from Oxford, says the proposed legilsation limits his local R-E-C from expanding its solar operation, which is five miles from Kinney’s farm.

“We’re also dealing with a property issue rights of someone owning a property and being able to do with that property as they wish.”

Democrats on the committee voted against the bill, and the Senate’s Democratic leader says it would have a chilling effect on investment in solar energy installations in Iowa. Zumbach suggests he’s willing to consider changes to the bill, but he says there are no statewide restrictions on solar arrays today and it’s time to put some lines in the sand.

The Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association and the Iowa Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives are opposed to the bill.  Officials with Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Farmers Union say the organizations are undecided.

The bill forbids solar installations on land with a Corn Suitability Rating of 65 or above, meaning the soil is considered fertile ground for row crops.