Skip to main content

Solar energy team receives award

EAST LANSING, MI – The “Shining a Light on Agricultural Solar Energy Development” team received the 2018 Gordon Guyer Collaborative Programming Award from Michigan State University Extension. 
The presentation took place in mid-October during the organization’s annual conference here.
The award is named for the late Gordon Guyer, a strong supporter of collaborative programming who at one time served as MSU Extension director and president of MSU. 
It recognizes collaborative teams that include members from multiple MSU Extension programming areas – in this case, from the land use policy and the agriculture and agribusiness areas.
In 2017, policy changes by the Michigan Public Service Commission made utility-scale solar projects more profitable. 
As a result, an increasing number of landowners, communities and farmers contacted MSU Extension and Michigan Farm Bureau seeking help navigating lease agreements and tax issues related to solar power.
In response,  a multidisciplinary team of MSU Extension educators and specialists created and presented “Shining a Light on Agricultural Solar Energy Development” across the state in early 2018. Team members included Wayne Beyea, Harmony Gmazel, Charles Gould, Brad Neumann and Dave Rowley. The Michigan Energy Office, the Michigan Farm Bureau, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development provided additional funding and support for the program.
“We knew what our mission was and we knew who could fill different niches in our research and in our presentations,” said Gmazel, an MSU Extension educator in land policy. “It worked really well – it was seamless.”
The team hosted seven half-day workshops and a two-part webinar that attracted 430 participants, including farmers and other landowners, solar industry representatives, elected and appointed government officials, and community members. Participants reported that the sessions significantly increased their understanding of Michigan solar policy, community planning and zoning issues, land leasing agreements, tax issues and how to integrate solar power systems into existing agricultural systems.
“From its inception, the Extension Service’s mission has been to work with stakeholders to identify educational needs, then share the information and knowledge with residents,” said Matt Kapp, government relations specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau. 
“This project was a perfect example of the merits on which the Extension Service was founded.”
MSU Extension works with partners across the state to help people improve their lives by bringing the vast knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities and businesses.