American Farmland Trust applauds introduction of bipartisan bill to advance agrivoltaics
Agrivoltaics refers to the practices of integrating solar energy generation and farming on the same piece of land, which could potentially reduce displacement of agricultural production from farmland as a result of solar development. The concept has been gaining attention in land-constrained countries like Japan and Germany as well as in states like Massachusetts and New Jersey.
“If included in the Farm Bill,” Fink said, “the Agrivoltaics Research and Demonstration Act would secure USDA’s role in advancing this innovation alongside the Department of Energy, AFT, and other partners across the country. Together, we are seeking ways to reduce displacement of farming from productive land as a result of solar energy development.”
New Jersey approves pilot program to demonstrate feasibility of agrivoltaics
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) has approved an agreement with the Rutgers University Agrivoltaics Program (RAP) to facilitate the development and implementation of a Dual-Use Solar Energy Pilot Program over the next three years.
The pilot program will provide incentives to solar electric generation facilities located on unpreserved farmland that plan to maintain the land’s active agricultural or horticultural use. Dual-use solar can provide farmers with an additional stream of revenue, assisting with farm financial viability enabling continued agricultural or horticultural production of land while also increasing the statewide production of clean energy…
Can agriculture and solar co-exist?
As New York faces a future that includes wetter winters, and periods of more frequent droughts during the summer, farming continues to be a challenging livelihood. For many farmers looking to retire, as well as new or younger farmers, the economics of agriculture is increasingly a focal point as they plan their future. According to American Farmland Trust’s Farms Under Threat report, New York lost over a quarter million acres of farmland in sixteen years (2000 – 2016).
The loss of NY’s farmland is concerning. But imagine if farmers had an income stream that helped cover rough years caused by drought, flooding, and erratic weather. That’s part of a shift underway to rethink solar development that works for farmers and farming, rather than taking land out of production.
While I think we can all agree that no one wants to see solar panels on good farmland if it takes that farmland out of production, Farmer First Solar changes that paradigm and prioritizes designs that allow for greater farming options, increased farm viability, and soil health…
Innovative AgriSolar design, a round-table discussion
Do you want to see solar that works with cows, horses, vineyards, orchards, vegetables, and other forms of agriculture? How about solar that doesn’t require perimeter fencing and is spaced apart to allow for equipment to grow crops or grow grass and hay crops?
Some of these solar designs might also work well for wildlife.
This webinar provides insights into what is already happening here in the U.S. and abroad. The solar developers show you what they are doing and how it can go to “scale.”
AgriSolar Clearinghouse hosts a webinar series with this round-table discussion featuring innovative solar designers Helical Solar, Sun Agri, Hyperion, Sandbox Solar, Solargik, RUTE Agrivoltaics, Soliculture, Stracker Solar, Taka Solar, and Sunstall.
Engage public, explore methods to secure NYS green energy
Solar-power developers need to explore using lower-quality agricultural land for solar energy, boost incentives for dual-use (combined agriculture and solar) options, avoid concentrated solar development and engage communities early to achieve New York’s green energy goals, according to forthcoming Cornell research.
“As farmland is generally flat and cleared, agricultural land will be the prime target for future solar energy development,” said Max Zhang, professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, in the College of Engineering, and senior author of “Strategic Land Use Analysis for Solar Energy Development in New York State,” which will publish in August 2021 in Renewable Energy. “Good farmland, however, is not ideal.”
Made in the shade: Growing crops at solar farms yields efficiency
“There is potential for agrivoltaic systems – where agriculture and solar panels coexist – to provide increased passive cooling through taller panel heights [emphasis added], more reflective ground cover and higher evapotranspiration rates compared to traditional solar farms,” said senior author Max Zhang, professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering [at Cornell], “We can generate renewable electricity and conserve farmland through agrivoltaic systems.”
In New York, for example, about 40% of utility-scale solar farm capacity has been developed on agricultural lands, while about 84% of land deemed suitable for utility-scale solar development is agricultural, according to a previous research study from Zhang’s group…
Douglas County sheep farm working to restore soil and build community, agrivoltaics
“Co-locating farming and clean energy production on agricultural land creates rural economic resiliency, provides land access for new and underserved farmers, and builds vital agricultural infrastructure. Unlocking these bottlenecks will create food security that allows small farmers to compete in a global extractive market while focusing on restorative farming practices that heal the land”…
The science of solar-pollinator habitat: a fact sheet
Land trusts and community groups can help their communities understand how the design, implementation, and management of solar fields can work to enhance biodiversity and pollinators as well as farming and ranching. In this case, a recent fact sheet by the AgriSolar Clearinghouse provides useful information share.
Solar farms put cow comfort and crop yield ahead of harvesting electrons
Solar arrays that promise to generate happier, healthier cows and crops, while producing cheap electrons on the side, are being put into practice in France, following a series of government-led energy tenders with a difference…
To really drive home this focus, the French government used contracts for the difference where the price per MWh is set for 20 years above the market value to compensate for the prioritization of agriculture and livestock over maximum solar production…
Farmer first solar: Agrivoltaics webinar series
The AgriSolar Clearinghouse is an information-sharing, relationship-building public communications hub for all things agrisolar. The AgriSolar Clearinghouse is offering a free series of webinars regarding research on how solar and agriculture can work (and are working) together to enhance farm/ranch viability, soil health, and water management.
Webinar topics include: the cost of agrivoltaics, growing crops under solar panels, taste differences among crops grown under panels, solar and pollinator habitats, and more. You can sign up here, or watch recordings of past webinars.