How Lewis County is balancing its agriculture industry and solar development

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LOWVILLE, N.Y. (WWTI) — Lewis County is currently preparing for what many consider the Solar Tsunami as New York State is pushing to achieve 100% zero emissions electricity by 2040.

To prepare the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency launched its Smart Growth Solar Resources for both developers and landowners.

Lewis County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Brittany Davis

“When New York State really decided that they were going to set some really ambitious goals for energy, we knew that it was going to be coming our way and that we better get ahead of the curve,” stated Lewis County IDA Director of Finance and Incentives Cheyenne Steria. “Deciding how we wanted to incorporate solar, because it’s an excellent opportunity, both energy-wise and fiscally for landowners, for communities.

Concerns have risen with the development of this new energy. Especially within the counties top industry; agriculture.

Lewis County IDA Executive Director Brittany Davis commented on these concerns.

We wanted to make sure that we were welcoming the opportunities that solar has on communities and dairy farmers, but still playing that balancing act of making sure our big picture economy is still taken care of as well,” stated Davis. “If we take all this land out of agricultural production, what does that do for the dairy industry? Which really is the backbone of Lewis County.”

But landowners are reminded that this energy is not permanent. It is something easily removed after a developers lease ends. Additionally to prioritize agricultural land, Lewis County IDA has developed a new incentive program for developers based on soil type and quality. 

“Every project that comes our way, we work with Lewis County Soil and Water to identify what types of soils that solar array is going to be located on,” stated Davis. “Developers, if they are using prime, agricultural lands, that incentive is going to be a little bit higher because that land is worth more to us in our our big picture economy.”

The full Lewis County Smart Growth Solar Resources can be found on the Naturally Lewis website.

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