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Cows
Judy Anderson

Agrivoltaics looks at farming around and among solar panels

We are predicted to need 8-10 million acres of solar to adequately transition from fossil fuels. When installed thoughtfully, solar can benefit farming, and farm viability, including large animal operations. We just need to push for it.

If you are driving to the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), look along U.S. Highway 59 for large pastures where cows graze among solar panels.

The cows, under the direction of Bradley Heins, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, use the panels for shade and shelter.

Double cropping solar power and organic dairy production works successfully here, but the concept — called agrivoltaics — is still very new…

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Coastal Rivers
Nate Poole

Coastal Rivers takes leap towards carbon neutrality with solar array

I think you will appreciate the leadership of land trusts like Coastal Rivers, who are making it clear that an integrated approach to slowing down climate change, matters.

For those who braved mud or ice to stroll the slopes at Round Top Farm this winter, they may have spotted something shiny and new in the southwest field behind Darrows Barn.

As of Jan. 3, contractors with ReVision Energy completely installed eight rows of solar panels on a one-acre parcel at the farm and are in the process of finishing the wiring on the array. ReVision broke ground on the project in the fall.

Hannah McGhee, Coastal Rivers outreach and communications manager, said the location for the panels was selected for the minimal impact it would have on the visual landscape at Round Top for the public and abutters.

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Agrivoltaics
Flickr

Solar sharing for both food and clean energy production

Farmland without water is an increasing risk no matter where you are in the country. Corn, soybeans, vegetables, and orchards are all feeling the stress; agrivoltaics (often elevated solar) could make a difference. You might find this scientific study on agrivoltaics (with corn), interesting.

Research on the performance of agrivoltaic systems for corn, a typical shade-intolerant crop.

This article concerns research conducted at a 100-m2 experimental farm with three sub-configurations: no modules (control), low module density, and high module density. In each configuration, 9 stalks/m2 were planted 0.5 m apart. The biomass of corn stover grown in the low-density configuration was larger than that of the control configuration by 4.9%. Also, the corn yield per square meter of the low-density configuration was larger than that of the control by 5.6%.

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Agrivoltaics
Times Hudson Valley Media

The future of farming?

Lightstar has one potential site in mind for the Town of Montgomery: a 3.4 mW installation on 16 acres. The acreage is currently being used for vegetable and hay production, with Lightstar offering financial and agricultural support for the next two decades.

Large solar arrays have begun to line the Wallkill Valley landscape. Solar farms are springing to life where agriculture — and in one case a miniature golf course — once ruled the land.

But what if a farmer wanted to continue to grow crops on a farm and was able to plant and grow them underneath solar panels that alternately allowed for shade and sunlight for the crops? What if the farmer could lease space to the provider of solar energy and earn additional income while continuing to operate the farm?

This concept, known as agrivoltaics, is catching on. It could soon come to the Town of Montgomery, provided a change in the town’s solar laws is approved…

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Agrivoltaics Screen Shot

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
iStock

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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