This episode of In Our Expert Opinion Real Estate Podcast is joined by Michael Minton and Dennis Corrick, shareholders at Dean Mead. Both Michael and Dennis are experts in their fields of agriculture and real estate law, each with a wealth of experience in Florida's solar and renewable energy industries. Throughout the episode, our guests discuss the implications of solar leases on Florida land as well as some of the challenges and opportunities within the state's solar industry.
Below is an excerpt from the interview. Listen above for the full podcast.
What do you specialize in? (Michael Minton) Our firm represents a number of generationally-owned agricultural families who have large land holdings that have become the ideal location for a lot of the new solar projects being built around the state. Because of that demand, we've developed an entire department within our firm that has different attorneys from different areas of practice who have worked on these projects.
Dennis and I have been involved with it since the inception of the department which has been almost eight or nine years ago now.
What are solar leases used for? (Dennis Corrick) They're used for electrical generation and they're used to power the grid. 400 to 600 acres can produce about 75 megawatts. When you get those cumulatively across the state, it's a lot of production with very little maintenance.
For comparison, in St. Lucie County, we have a nuclear plant and they have 100 engineers on staff at all times for 24 hours, and so on. The solar field just sits there and produces electricity. It's passive and it's green.
Why do your clients invest in solar? (Michael Minton) We work primarily with industrial-size production where it's solar that creates electricity that goes onto the grid and is used elsewhere.
The important thing is to have a piece of property that's got a good location. Like every other type of real estate, location, location, location are the three most important things. It’s being near a substation so that you can get on that grid. If the grid has capacity, then it creates an opportunity to have a site that's coveted by the solar developers and the electricity producers.
What is the long-term impact of solar leases on agricultural land? (Dennis Corrick) Our firm has, for decades, worked with agribusiness which involves a lot of families. In Florida, it's like the last crop is always homes, but a lot of these families want to stay in agriculture or stay attached to their land.
Our clients are looking out there on the horizon, maybe talking about the next generation or two generations out. These solar leases are generally baseline 30-year leases. Beyond that 30-year plan, the next generation can make the decision on what ultimately to do with the land.
With the panels, there's some infrastructure that needs to be put in, but these panels generally go on little aluminum stands that are hammered into the ground, and that's it. It's not like there are acres of concrete, buried wires, or things like that. These are relatively compact and relatively unobtrusive.
30 years out, they get a clean slate black back. They may have a road that goes around their property, but other than that, they're getting their agricultural land back. They're getting a 30-year arrangement where they're being paid fairly well for the use of their property.