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Climate Tip Solar
Peconic Land Trust

Climate tip: solar

How is your land trust demonstrating that reducing energy use, and moving away from fossil fuels, is possible and strategic?

[Recently, the Peconic Land Trust] celebrated National Cut Your Energy Cost Day with a look at our own energy costs. The Peconic Land Trust has been working to cut its energy costs through the use of solar panels—which is both economically and environmentally friendly. The net cost of solar is significantly lower than the current cost of utility power on Long Island, $0.09/ kWH to $0.21/ kWh respectively.

During the renovation of the Southampton office building in 2017, 32 solar panels were installed on the roof by GreenLogic. Since then, the panels have produced over 45,000 kWh of energy at a savings of more than $10,000! Power on Long Island comes from a combination of sources including coal and natural gas…

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How To Solar Now
Scenic Hudson

How to Solar Now

Even if you aren't located in the Hudson Valley region of New York, this tool might be something to replicate where you live. Check it out and see what you think.

Land trusts are realizing that they must support renewable energy if we are going to have a chance at saving the plants, animals, and communities from the worst of climate change.

This web-based interactive tool combines mapped information with education and guidance to help your community proactively plan for smart solar energy development. Using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping layers, the tool identifies communities’ natural resources—such as forests, agricultural lands, and wetlands—and overlays them with important characteristics for solar development, such as gentle slopes and distance to transmission lines. It enables communities considering planning and zoning for future solar development, evaluating proposals by developers or identifying preferred sites for solar to make smart decisions that bring clean energy to residents while minimizing impacts to natural and community assets…

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Solar And Kale
NREL

Benefits of agrivoltaics across food, water, energy sectors

Food and energy security need not be competing objectives. In fact, taking a holistic, integrated approach to food-energy-water decision making can increase resiliency of both food and energy systems…

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Solar Field From Above
Robin Lubbock/WBUR

Farms will harvest food and the sun, as Massachusetts pioneers ‘Dual-Use’ Solar

We are losing farms and ranches at an alarming rate. What if compatible solar was part of the economic strategy to keep family farms and ranches viable, and pass them on to the next generation? We have the technology. We just need the community will to make that happen.

Fickle weather and fluctuating prices make farming a risky business, so five years ago, [Paul] Knowlton installed a new cash crop: solar energy. He turned 19 acres into two solar energy fields. “Doing the solar was very beneficial,” he says. “In the wintertime there is no revenue for a farm. It’s a tough game.”

Knowlton wants to increase the production of solar power on his farm, expanding it to another 14 acres. But this time, cutting-edge technology is making it possible to harvest both the sun’s energy and crops on the same land. It’s called “agrivoltaics” or “dual-use solar”…Knowlton has nine children, and hopes solar will help the farm stay in the family. “We’re going to keep it for the next generation to enjoy,” he says.

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Solar Farm Screenshot
video screenshot

Solar installation—Matsuda Farm

Local land trust's projects and creative solutions to climate change speak volumes about how they see their role in the climate crisis.

Does your land trust have an opportunity to install solar on its lands as part of an overall project, and education strategy?

The Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust is passionate about conserving land to protect the natural ecosystems and rural character of their islands amidst today’s rampant development. They created a video to talk about a solar installation on a farm they own and how it relates to their conservation goals.

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Solar And Ranchers
Dennis Schroeder/NREL

Beneath solar panels, the seeds of opportunity sprout

“On a humid, overcast day in central Minnesota, a dozen researchers crouch in the grass between rows of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. Only their bright yellow hard hats are clearly visible above the tall, nearly overgrown prarie grasses—which are growing exactly as expected.

Bent over white, square frames, some of the researchers catalog the number and type of native plants growing on a square foot of land. Others press double-forked meters into the ground, measuring the soil moisture below the solar panels and in open ground. Nearby, beekeepers check on the health of local hives.

Their research is part of an ongoing study to quantify the benefits of a new approach to solar installations: low-impact solar development…”

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Many Solar Panels
Creative Commons

Panel discussion: Integrated Energy Research on Agriculture & Water Challenges

Check out these slides from this detailed panel hosted by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis just a few weeks ago…

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Solar Farmer And Kale
DENNIS SCHROEDER/NREL

Can farmland fix solar power’s real estate problem?

“The farmers we work with are facing the reality of not wanting to sell their farms, but they have a developer knocking on the door...There’s an opportunity to leverage [agrivoltaics] so we can do [elevated] ground-mounted solar without taking any farmland off the table..."

Rooftop panels are great, but there just isn’t enough viable rooftop space for solar to take a meaningful bite out of carbon emissions in the US. For that, the country needs utility-scale solar farms, which can take up a lot of space—they could occupy an area the size of Connecticut by 2030, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

There needn’t be a trade-off between crops and electrons, [Chad] Higgins said; they can grow in tandem. Elevated solar panels installed above crops (so-called “agrivoltaics”) can provide an extra income stream for farmers if they lease the space for them to solar companies. And they can yield benefits for the farm itself: the shade can actually boost the yield of vegetables, decrease water consumption, and preserve the ability of soil to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, according to an ongoing National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study. The study’s pilot sites have also found ways to combine solar with cattle and goat grazing, as well as apiaries for bees…

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Ag Cows Solar Shade

Video: Solar shading for dairy cows

We all know Minnesota summers can be hot, especially for our grazing dairy herd. We’ve installed solar panels in our pasture to provide shade for our cows. Brad Heins, WCROC dairy scientist, and Kirsten Sharpe, graduate student, share more information…

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Cows And Solar
Chris via Geograph

Solar panels provide cow comfort

In the urgent push to transition to renewables, agricultural land will either be overcome with solar—or managed in partnership with solar that is specifically designed to be compatible for agricultural production. The examples are growing. To make it widespread, conservationists will need to advocate for it.

Research from the University of Minnesota on solar panels at dairy farms is leading to some interesting results. The panels produce electricity to run the farms, but also provide shade for the dairy cattle—thus improving cattle comfort.

A 30-kilowatt solar-powered system is in the pasture of the rotational grazing system at the West Central Research and Outreach Center. The center is located in Morris, Minnesota. According to University of Minnesota assistant professor and Extension Organic Dairy Management Specialist Brad Heins, the system provides shade for the center’s milking herd and energy for the milking parlor…

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