News Release

Ag-to-energy farmland use is focus of new $2.4 million grant

Grant and Award Announcement

Cornell University

ITHACA, N.Y. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation have awarded a three-year, $2.4 million grant to a team of Cornell University researchers who will study how agriculture-to-energy land-use conversions - putting solar panels or wind turbines on arable farmland - could impact food production, energy prices, water quality and resilience to changes in climate.

Six Cornell faculty members - an energy engineer, an applied dynamic structural econometrician, an agricultural and climate change economist, a statistical hydroclimatologist, a hydrologist and an agricultural scientist - will create models designed to focus on the interrelationships between food, energy and water.

For the project, the faculty will devise a model to investigate how ag-to-energy land-use conversions will propagate through the dynamics of land markets, and how such conversions will affect and be affected by agricultural production, water quality and quantity, and electrical grid operational efficiency.

"This will provide a scientific basis to improve national, state and regional policy decisions related to land use, agriculture, renewable energy and energy prices over time ... in order to maximize net benefits to society," said principal investigator and economics associate professor, C.-Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell.

The researchers will apply the modeling framework to New York state, which they see as an ideal proving ground due to its goals to achieve 50% renewable electricity by 2030. New York also offers a self-contained water system and a thriving agricultural sector that is threatened by climate change.

In addition to Lin Lawell and Walter, the other principal investigators are M. Todd Walter, professor of biological and environmental engineering; C. Lindsay Anderson, associate professor in biological and environmental engineering; Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, assistant professor at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; Scott Steinschneider, assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering; and Peter Woodbury, senior research associate in soil and crop sciences.

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