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Kale Solar
Hyperion Systems LLC/NREL

Farms under threat: the state of the States

We are losing small farms at an alarming rate. Dual-use agrivoltaics could help keep families on the farm and improve soil health.

American Farmland Trust’s new report used spatial mapping analyses of agricultural land conversion to provide unprecedented insights into the status and fate of American farmland. Our findings and maps of agricultural land at the state, county, and even sub-county levels show that between 2001 and 2016, 11 million acres of farmland and ranchland were converted to urban and highly developed land use (4.1 million acres) or low-density residential land use (nearly 7 million acres).

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Solar
Shutterstock

Growing plants — and providing solar energy

We are losing small farms at an alarming rate. Dual-use agrivoltaics could help keep families on the farm and improve soil health. Check out the research from Oregon State.

Access to fresh food is already a problem in many countries, and will likely get worse with more mouths to feed. This is where the concept of agrivoltaics could create a massive change. This farming setup mixes water, energy, and plant growth all in one space. Solar panels collect energy from the sun’s rays; underneath those panels is where the plants grow. The setup takes less water than the traditional way of farming, all-in-all creating a more sustainable way to grow food and create energy.

Joining Ira to talk about the promise of agrivoltaics is Dr. Chad Higgins, associate professor of biological and ecological engineering at Oregon State University, in Corvallis, Oregon.

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Screen Shot

Federal agrivoltaics research and programs

This is an interesting webinar: increased farm viability, soil health, and pollinator habitats are possible with well-designed solar installations. Land trusts can help advocate for this type of solar just as they do soil and water conservation initiatives and farmland protection efforts.

In this webinar Zachary Eldredge with the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) discussed the government’s agrivoltaics programs and recent developments in agrivoltaics engineering.

You can listen to the webinar and download the slides. You might want to join American Solar Grazing Association ($75/year) to stay abreast of research and practices related to dual-use, grazing/crop solar.

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Agrivoltaics
Flickr

Feed people; power economies; foster peace with agrivoltaics

I continue to grapple with the climate news, the war in the Ukraine, and how they are actually linked. I don't know if you've been following this line of thinking, but there's a lot of data on what this means. There is also the realization that we can turn this around. Check out this post; I'll be curious to know what you think.

“Amidst the noise, haste, and chaos of modern life there are more positive developments for humanity than one might think. Everyone focuses on the disasters of the climate crisis, and while those do motivate our daily work, we also feel it’s important to highlight the hopeful – the very real innovations pushing our clean energy movement forward…”

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Farmland
Coastal Reivers Conservation Trust

Land trust installs their own solar project

This land trust got creative. They figured out how to make the funding work. Now they are working to include solar grazing as part of the installation.

Coastal Rivers is working toward a goal of achieving carbon neutrality within the next five years. A major step toward this goal was to install energy-efficient heat pumps to heat and cool the renovated Denny Conservation & Education Center at Round Top Farm. The next step is to power those heat pumps — and the bulk of our electrical needs overall — with solar-generated energy.

We have a prime site for a solar installation at Round Top Farm in the southwest field below the large dirt parking lot by Darrows Barn. The slope aspect is ideal, and the topography limits visual impacts. We also have three-phase power to the site already, which will reduce construction costs…

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Farm
Judy Anderson

SunCommon financing program helps Vermont organic farmers go solar

Organic Valley, the largest farmer-owned organic cooperative in the U.S., is teaming up with SunCommon to help Vermont farmers go solar — with zero up-front costs.

SunCommon, headquartered in Waterbury, Vermont, launched a program that offers to help Organic Valley farmers go solar with zero upfront costs. Organic Valley is the largest farmer-owned organic cooperative in the US with a footprint of 100+ Vermont farms. The program provides Organic Valley farmer-members with financing for solar and other renewable energy projects. Farmers benefit from a fully-funded solar installation with no upfront costs, and they save on their energy bill…

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From The Ground Up

From the Ground Up

See what you think of this inspiring short film showing the impact of regenerative (climate-smart) farming in Australia. Farmers and ranchers in the arid U.S. have a lot in common with our friends "down under."

Farming with nature, and using rotational grazing and regenerative practices, makes a considerable impact on the landscapes of the farms featured in this film.

Inspired by Charles Massy’s best-selling book, “Call of the Reed Warbler,” filmmaker Amy Browne set out across the dry farming country of South East NSW [Australia] to meet Massy and the other trailblazing farmers bringing new life to their land…

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Corn
iStock

The extent of soil loss across the US Corn Belt

Scientists have found that around 35 percent of the region has lost its most fertile A-horizon soil, more commonly known as topsoil, since European colonization in the 1600s, resulting in estimated annual economic losses of around $2.8 billion and a 6 percent reduction in crop yields per year. Their findings are published here...

“Soil erosion in agricultural landscapes reduces crop yields, leads to loss of ecosystem services, and influences the global carbon cycle. Despite decades of soil erosion research, the magnitude of historical soil loss remains poorly quantified across large agricultural regions because preagricultural soil data are rare, and it is challenging to extrapolate local-scale erosion observations across time and space…”

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Good Bad Soil
Dale Strickler

The corn belt is losing topsoil, increasing carbon emissions, and lowering yields

New research finds massive soil loss across the Midwest which sends more pollutants into the water, dust into the air, and carbon into the atmosphere. Changing farm practices and improving technology could reverse this trend. Climate-smart farming is also linked to farm viability.

Scientists have found that around 35 percent of the region has lost its most fertile A-horizon soil, more commonly known as topsoil, since European colonization in the 1600s, resulting in estimated annual economic losses of around $2.8 billion and a 6 percent reduction in crop yields per year. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences….

“A third of the Midwest is currently losing 50 percent of its fertilizer,” Bruno Basso, a professor at Michigan State University, who was not involved in the study, said…

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Sheep
ASGA

Organization to know: The American Solar Grazing Assoication

Encourage your local land trust to start exploring how dual-use solar, and elevated solar, can help with farm viability, soil health, and water management.

Want to Get Involved With Solar Grazing?

Well you’ve come to the right place. The American Solar Grazing Association (ASGA) was founded to promote grazing sheep on solar installations.

ASGA members are developing best practices that support shepherds and solar developers to both effectively manage solar installations and create new agribusiness profits.

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