Jhe conflict in Ukraine reminds the Western world of the importance of energy independence and food security. World leaders, including the Biden administration, argue that we need to increase wind and solar power generation to reduce dependence on Russian energy. But as the invasion of Russia demonstrated, this strategy has already failed and, in fact, helped spark this war in the first place.
By strangling American energy producers, the White House fueled soaring oil prices and enriched Russian leaders. As a further consequence, Americans are now grappling with the highest gas prices ever recorded. And the pain doesn’t stop at the pump. Food prices, particularly wheat, have also reached record highs.
That is why our response to Moscow’s aggression must be to maximize our ability to produce the energy and food the world desperately needs right here at home. It starts with preserving farmland for future generations.
Thanks to the dizzying array of renewable energy exclusions that litter our tax code, taxpayers are forced to subscribe to generous “green power” giveaways, allowing power companies to efficiently tap into the public treasury to subsidize unreliable wind and solar farms. As a result, prime farmland is often taken out of production, posing a long-term threat to America’s ability to feed the world.
Industrial solar and wind installations are land-intensive means of generating electricity that often don’t show up when we need them most. It takes about 8 acres of land per megawatt of installed solar capacity and an average of 106 acres per megawatt of wind power. While it is possible to “farm around” wind turbines, it is not possible with solar panels.
This means that our increasing dependence on unreliable wind and solar power will consume huge amounts of land while paradoxically making us Continued depend on foreign countries for the electricity we need to heat our homes and run our factories. Indeed, the area required for the deployment of wind and intermittent solar resources is even greater if we take into account the low productivity compared to other energy sources.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, solar panels in Wisconsin produced only 16% of their potential output in 2020, and wind turbines produced 27.5% of theirs. In other words, the vast majority of the time, the people of Wisconsin still rely on sources of electricity generation that actually work persistently, such as coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, and natural gas.
Additionally, EIA data reveals that Wisconsin uses 7,014 MW of electricity, on average, every hour of the year. Therefore, it would take 350,700 acres of solar panels, or 2.6 million acres of wind turbines, to produce that much electricity after accounting for the low output of wind turbines and solar panels. Still, the average farm size in Wisconsin is 222 acres. This means that generating 7,104 MW of solar power on average every hour of the year would require the land equivalent of 1,579 Wisconsin farms.
That’s why we’re working to enact the Future Agriculture Retention and Management or FARM Act, which would prevent taxpayers from turning real farms into wind and solar farms.
Some critics have argued that this bill is anti-wind and anti-solar. But that’s just not true. If the electricity companies want to build wind turbines or solar panels, nothing in the bill prevents them from doing so. But it prevents taxpayer funds from tipping the balance in favor of wind and solar development at the expense of food production.
Our nation projects its strength abroad not only through its military might, but also through its ability to help feed its allies and generate its own reliable energy. Making taxpayers pay to fund gold-plated grants to the green lobby hampers our ability to do so.
The FARM Act is a much-needed policy that will restore common sense and fairness to energy and agricultural policy by removing the corporate welfare that has supported substandard energy sources for too long.
Tom Tiffany represents Wisconsin’s 7th congressional district in the United States House. Isaac Orr is a policy researcher at the Center of the American Experiment. Both authors grew up on dairy farms in Wisconsin.