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Solar Panels
Unsplash

Utility-scale solar energy can be a tool for conservation, economic development

While many land trusts are concerned about climate change, few are messaging about solar in a manner that promotes larger-scale developments that work towards wildlife habitat, water absorption, and farm viability. Natural climate solutions will falter if we don't slow down the use of fossil fuels, quickly. Here's an example of an organization taking a proactive approach.

To put it plainly, these proposed projects will not destroy the natural environment nor negatively impact the watershed if they are approved and built in line with Linn County’s existing ordinance for solar energy projects. In fact, with a diverse mix of native grasses and wildflowers cultivated on-site, these proposed projects can significantly improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators, going a long way to restore Iowa’s landscape.

Furthermore, by using wildlife-style fencing instead of traditional chain link fencing, these sites can be a home for upland nesting birds such as ring-necked pheasants, quail, and other grassland birds like the dickcissel…

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Car Battery
Pixabay

New recycling techniques set to make electric vehicles greener

One of the pushbacks renewables receive is centered around waste. It's a bit ironic, because oil, gas, and coal don't get the same pushback — yet they destroy mountains, water, land... and the climate. But here is good news, regardless. You could share this.

Researchers in Britain and the United States have found ways to recycle electric vehicle batteries that can drastically cut costs and carbon emissions, shoring up sustainable supplies for an expected surge in demand.

The techniques, which involve retrieving parts of the battery so they can be reused, would help the auto industry tackle criticism that even though EVs reduce emissions over their lifetime, they start out with a heavy carbon footprint of mined materials…

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Ethan Winter TNC

AFT welcomes solar and conservation specialist

American Farmland Trust is gearing up to find creative solutions that increase agricultural viability and slow down climate change. This work includes finding opportunities to work with solar companies, communities, and farmers in the Northeast.

American Farmland Trust welcomes Ethan Winter as the Northeast Solar Specialist. In this role, Winter will work across regional and national programs to help set and implement AFTs strategy for solar energy generation and farmland conservation. Winter joins AFT with an extensive background in solar development throughout the Northeast.

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Tree Planting
Suncommon

Restoration and solar team up

Those I know who work in the solar field are doing so because they want to make a difference. Many times that includes slowing down climate change and enhancing wildlife or farm viability. How is your local or regional land conservation group building relationships with solar companies?

For over a year now, much of the SunCommon team has been working remotely, and all-staff gatherings have been suspended. But graced with good weather and increased access to vaccines amongst [their] staff, [they] paused operations for a day to give each other the opportunity to reconnect after a year apart, provide service to our community, and expand [their] mission impact by planting carbon-sequestering trees.

Check out the projects and organizations they worked with…

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Solar And Sheep
Wikimedia

How solar energy can coincide with crop and animal agriculture

We need to see clean energy as part of our conservation solution and work to authentically find ways to promote it, and not sideline it under the guise of locating it in "appropriate places." We need to promote dual-use, elevated solar that supports farm viability.

We’ve devoted millions of acres of land to growing crops and allowing farm animals to graze. Now, that land used for agriculture can have a dual purpose — to harness the sun’s rays and provide energy.

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Sheep And Solar
Wikimedia

The future of solar relies on synergies between renewables development and the environment

We need to see clean energy as part of our conservation solution and work to authentically find ways to promote it, and not sideline it under the guise of locating it in "appropriate places." We need to promote dual-use, elevated solar that supports farm viability.

As corporations and utilities continue to look to renewable energy to help them reach sustainability and renewable portfolio standard (RPS) commitments, solar development has flourished. According to the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, it’s predicted that utility-scale solar sites are on track to occupy nearly 2 million acres in the United States by 2030.

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Solar Grazing Map
OnPasture

Solar grazing: A new income stream for livestock producers

We are going to need renewables at a large scale in the U.S. — and soon. Rather than wipe out forests, we could encourage solar that works with farmland. We need conservationists to help make this a reality. You can share these articles to let people know that dual-use solar can help farmland and farmers.

Utility-scale solar arrays may cover 3 million acres across the U.S. by 2030, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). This is causing tension with farmers and farmland advocates, as the panels are often sited on good agricultural land, displacing current production.

One solution is to restrict solar developments from being installed on farmland. But there are other solutions worth pursuing, too. Most large-scale solar arrays are located in rural areas where economies are hurting and farmer numbers are dwindling…

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Wind And Coal
Yale CC / DANA NUCCITELLI

Greens: Divided on ‘clean’ energy? Or closer than they appear?

The issue in contention is whether certain technologies, like fossil fuels that capture their carbon emissions, nuclear, and biomass power should be considered sufficiently “clean,” — or whether they should be eliminated from the American power generation mix for the sake of environmental justice. Conservation solutions are seen as part of the mix, too.

Solar, wind, and geothermal sources currently account for just 11% of U.S. electricity, with another 7% from hydroelectric dams, 20% from nuclear, 19% from coal, and 40% from gas. A host of energy modeling studies have concluded that renewable energy could be scaled up to supply 80-90% of U.S. electricity demand, but meeting the final 10-20% is exceedingly challenging.

The 2035 report by the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy estimated that the U.S. could achieve 90% emissions-free electricity by 2035, including 70% from wind and solar with batteries, 20% from nuclear, and 10% from gas…

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Sheep For Solar

How to have your solar farm and keep your regular farm, too

We are losing farmland at an alarming rate, as noted by American Farmland Trust. Dual-use, or "compatible solar", depending on how it is designed, could help provide needed farm income AND improve soil health, sequester carbon, and diversify the operation over time. You can help promote dual-use and counter what is becoming more of a "not in my backyard" response. Solar can't just go on rooftops and parking lots and dumps. It's going to have to also go on open land. So, rather than cutting down forests, let's ensure solar installations are working with agriculture.

You may appreciate this short news clip from NPR

Clean, abundant solar power comes with a price. It requires lots of land, and in some places that’s provoking opposition from people who want to preserve farmland.

In southern New Jersey, for instance, a company called Dakota Power Partners wants to build an 800-acre solar power station, and the Pilesgrove Township planning board is hearing from local citizens who don’t like it one bit…

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Solar Panels
BTLT

Crystal Spring Farm Community Solar Project

Are you looking for examples to demonstrate support for "compatible" renewables? This might be something you could emulate in your region.

For the [over] 25 years BTLT has owned and managed Crystal Spring Farm, a 331-acre property dynamic in its agricultural impact, community programs, recreational opportunities, and ecological value. As BTLT staff and resources have grown, so has our capacity to manage the many aspects of this incredible property…

Capacity: 78.65 Kilowatts (KW), 286 photovoltaic solar panels, 275 watts/panel

Host: Crystal Spring Farm, with concurrence of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (landowner).

Participants: Crystal Spring Farm plus seven other Brunswick families without access to solar electricity where they live.

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