Developing a Picture of Solar Development

As New York State continues to see an increase in large-scale, community-sited solar development, a clear understanding of the process that landowners—particularly agricultural—undergo is needed. The goal of this internship will be to compile a series of case studies that detail the landowner’s experience when they develop agricultural land for solar. These case studies will support a Solar Development Flowchart, currently in development. The flowchart outlines the solar development process from point of contact (between the landowner and developer) through the moment of breaking ground with the goal of elucidating for extension educators and land-owners the orchestration involved in bring a project to fruition. Each case study will detail the solar development process from project concept to project completion. Case studies will provide information on siting, solar developers, utility provider, project size, project phase, financial impact on the landowner and surrounding community. Case studies will also collect information on the jurisdiction’s zoning and solar laws. Solar development case studies will be a primary resource for educators and landowners to use as guidance when navigating the solar development process. Additional resources developed may include (but not limited to): high-level guidance documents, FAQs, educator materials, etc. Case studies will provide invaluable insight into the process of solar development for landowners and will be able to help identify barriers that landowners may face and help provide solutions to move past these barriers.

    Roles and responsibilities 

    The intern will spend time familiarizing themselves with solar development in New York State and utilized CCE’s Ag-Solar Working Group’s Airtable database. The intern will work with the primary team to develop and review a series of interview questions designed to collect information from landowners. These questions will be written to identify the process, successes, barriers, and solutions that landowners experienced. The intern will then interview selected farmers/landowners throughout New York State that have leased land for solar development. The intern will synthesize interviews into case studies with landowners and educators as the target audience. In addition, to project development, the intern will report biweekly to the CCE Ag-Solar Working Group to discuss progress and receive feedback. The intern will also be responsible for aiding the primary working group in creating outreach materials to educate landowners about the steps and resources that are available with solar development on agricultural lands.

    Qualifications and previous coursework

    This opportunity is available to non-graduating students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

    • Proficient with Microsoft Office
    • Reliable transportation
    • GIS experience is helpful but not necessary
    • Strong public speaking, presenting, interaction skills
    • Ability to perform tasks independently
    • Strong writing skills

    Learning outcomes 

    • Project design and management
    • Data collection
    • Public speaking
    • Working in teams with diverse individuals and disciplines
    • Creating effective outreach programs and resources
    • Creating, delivering and analyzing results
    • Case study development
    • Communicating research to difference audiences
    • An understanding of solar development in NYS
    • Experience with municipal government planning