Understanding Opportunities and Barriers to Colocation of Solar and Agricultural Land Use in Tioga County

New York State is pursuing an ambitious goal to source 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. To meet this target, the state will need to greatly expand large-scale solar, a process that will present new opportunities and challenges for rural communities across the state. In particular, the attractiveness of farmland for large-scale solar development has the potential to place solar and agricultural land uses in conflict. In this context, the colocation of farm enterprises and solar development is of growing interest and importance to researchers, policymakers, and community members.

This project will investigate the potential for colocation of solar and agricultural use in Tioga County, and map out potential areas for related educational program development. The CCE summer intern will play a lead role in identifying and interviewing key stakeholders, including farm operators, rural landowners, solar developers, and policymakers. The student will analyze interview data and evaluate local opportunities and barriers associated with colocation. Short-term project outcomes will include a published article and a presentation summarizing key results and recommendations for program and policy development. Impacts of this project will continue beyond the scope of the internship, as CCE Tioga County agricultural staff will use the findings to inform educational program planning and development. In addition, the field mentors will disseminate the findings and recommendations to other associations within New York State.

Roles and responsibilities 

The student intern will meet with the faculty sponsor and field supervisors/mentors to develop a timeline for deliverables. Deliverables include: 

  • Conducting a literature search of colocation of solar fields and agriculture 
  • Identifying community stakeholders, solar developers, and farmers with an interest in colocation
  • Creating a qualitative survey for data collection
  • Requesting an exemption from IRB, and conducting interviews

After completing the interviews, the student intern will analyze the survey data and evaluate opportunities and barriers to colocation. They will translate findings into a set of recommendations for educational programming and policy development. They will present their findings and recommendations to the Agriculture Resource Group of Tioga County and other interested community members. They will also publish findings in a CCE newsletter and/or blog article, and submit that article to other agricultural media outlets. Finally, the student intern will create a fact sheet that CCE offices across New York State can share with farmers who are interested in the colocation of solar projects and agricultural enterprises. This work may be conducted remotely or from the CCE Tioga office in Owego, NY. There may be some incidental travel to see current solar installations or visit farmers.

Qualifications and previous coursework

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

Additional qualifications include: 

  • Coursework in business management, agricultural economics, development sociology, communications, and/or education
  • Experience conducting interviews and qualitative data analysis is a plus
  • Strong interest in agriculture, demonstrated through prior coursework or on-farm experience
  • Comfort using Excel for data management
  • Strong written and oral communication skills

Learning outcomes 

Upon completion of the internship, the student intern will be able to:

  • Identify the major opportunities and barriers to colocation of solar development and agricultural land use in New York State
  • Develop interview questions and conduct interviews with community stakeholders
  • Translate interview data into meaningful recommendations for program development
  • Discuss the effects of large-scale solar development on various community stakeholders
  • Propose programmatic and policy solutions to promote colocation of solar and agricultural land use in Tioga County
  • Understand the role of CCE county associations in advancing Cornell University’s land grant mission