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Sustainable farm agrivoltaic project

This research provides clarity on how solar and farming can work together to improve soil health, water management, and enhanced solar energy production.

Solar panels can be positioned to allow plants just the right amount of sunlight, and then the excess sunlight can be harvested for electricity — and produce more than they would without crops below them.

That’s right. Plants help keep the solar panels cool, which makes them more productive. Our studies have shown that panels positioned above plants produce up to 10% more electricity.

Agrivoltaics is a symbiotic relationship where both the solar panels and the crops benefit because they help each other perform better.

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Piglets
iStock

Farming collaborative plan looks to keep land accessible, open

Vermont Land Trust has long been an organization supporting farm viability as part of its farmland protection strategy. This is an interesting project that reflects climate change, economic viability, and conservation.

Under the land collaborative model, the property will not solely be devoted to agriculture; Sanford-Long’s animals will share land with a planned solar array…

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Solar Farm
Robin Lubbock/WBUR

Farms will harvest food and the sun, as Mass. pioneers ‘dual-use’ solar

Is your land trust thinking creatively about climate solutions and partnerships? Perhaps your land trust realizes that renewables need to work with land and water.

Paul Knowlton owns 300 acres of land in Grafton, and farms about 50. The farm has been in his family for five generation, ever since Knowlton’s great-great-grandfather settled in the Blackstone Valley in 1872.

These days Knowlton grows pumpkins, squash and corn. Up a gravel road, past the family cemetery, corn stalks are still standing from this year’s crop. “Considering the drought situation, we did fair,” Knowlton says.

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Solar Sheep
American Solar Grazing Association

Solar meets sheep (and bees, and more)

Is your land trust thinking creatively about climate solutions and partnerships? Perhaps your land trust realizes that renewables need to work with land and water. Scenic Hudson continues to demonstrate how they are an organization that is learning and helping to lead.

Often solar panels sit on former agricultural land, but aren’t what we’d otherwise think of as a farm.

Agrivoltaics aims to change that by hosting PV panels and agriculture on the exact same land. Often, livestock like sheep graze under the solar panels. Sometimes the projects include pollinator habitat as well, which can benefit biodiversity, honey production, or adjacent pollinator-dependent crops. And trials are being done growing shaded crops under raised panels, too…

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Monarch
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Research shows solar habitat installations support pollinators

Up to 10 million acres are forecasted to be tapped for solar. In addition to agrivoltaics and elevated solar, let's make sure it works for pollinators too. You can advocate for habitat-friendly solar. This won't happen by accident.

Join Monarch Joint Venture, Connexus Energy, MNL, and Fresh Energy for a free webinar where they dig into the new study, “Monitoring Pollinators on Minnesota Solar Installation,” which used field data collection practices to document an abundance of bees, butterflies, moths, flies, and wasps utilizing pollinator-friendly solar habitat in Minnesota. We’ll also discuss seed mixes and biodiversity benefits, how utilities and co-ops can lead, and more.

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Grassland
Wikimedia

Development by design: Mitigating wind development’s impacts on wildlife in Kansas

If you aren't familiar with Osage County, you might be interested to see the amazing ecosystems that still exist there, and what we risk losing if we don't take action — now. This article talks about wind energy, and its role in this area. See what you think.

Wind energy, if improperly sited, can impact wildlife through direct mortality and habitat loss and fragmentation, in contrast to its environmental benefits in the areas of greenhouse gas, air quality, and water quality. Fortunately, risks to wildlife from wind energy may be alleviated through proper siting and mitigation offsets. Here we identify areas in Kansas where wind development is incompatible with conservation, areas where wind development may proceed but with compensatory mitigation for impacts, and areas where development could proceed without the need for compensatory mitigation.

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Agrivoltaics
Screenshot

Friday Feature: Agrivoltaics — farming under solar panels

The University of Florida Extension featured this short video explaining the positive benefits — and challenges — around elevated, dual-use solar for farm viability. We need conservation groups to start advocating for this as they do for land conservation funding and healthy soil initiatives.

With the push to seek alternative energy sources, solar farms are buying up farm land. Agrivoltaics is the combination of the two, so the land is not lost for food production. There are benefits to partial shade for crop production, such as lower irrigation requirements. The trick is to find the right mix to have both productive crop production and also adequate solar energy production. There are research projects in Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon to evaluate this opportunity that is already being utilized to some extent in Europe.

Check out the pros and cons of combining farming with solar installations…

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Screen Shot Webinar

Solar that supports farmers, soils, water

We are losing farms due to a lack of farm viability. Elevated solar, that allows for growing crops, grazing with dairy cows and horses, and protecting orchards and sensitive plants could become the norm (if we make it that way...). Check out this webinar.

While states and communities around the U.S. are ramping up renewable energy commitments and incentivizing solar development, many farms are struggling. There is also growing concern that solar development could displace active agricultural use on productive farmland, with impacts to farm renters, local economies, and regional food systems. Without an integrated approach, achieving clean energy goals may come at the loss of some of our most fertile and economically viable farmland to solar development.

American Farmland Trust seeks a more collaborative and sustainable path forward towards a clean energy transition that supports healthy soils, wholesome food, and vibrant farms…

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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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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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