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Agrisolar Clearinghouse

Farmer first solar: Agrivoltaics webinar series

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse is hosting a series of webinars around the ins and outs of agrivoltaics. This might be a good thing to share with community members, your friends and neighbors, and other conservation folks.

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.

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Grapes
iStock

Solar panels help French winemaker keep climate change at bay

Europe is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to elevated solar and agrivoltaics. It doesn't have to be that way. With funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, communities and states could incentivize Farmer First Solar — which enhances agriculture, like in this story. Check out the images, too.

A roof of solar panels shades Pierre Escudie as he inspects the last plump grapes to be harvested at his vineyard in southwest France, after a year of hard frosts and blistering heat that damaged many of his neighbors’ crops.

The solar panels insulate the grapes during periods of extreme cold and shield them from the sun’s harsh rays during heat waves. The panels also rotate to allow more light to hit the vines on more overcast days…

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Solar Installation
Sierra Club

The Inflation Reduction Act is a game changer for nonprofits seeking solar + storage

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA bill) can help increase land and water conservation, as well as nature-based and renewable energy solutions. For nonprofits, including land trusts, the IRA bill will effectively allow these organizations, such as affordable housing developers, community-based organizations, and state, local, and tribal governments, to receive the benefits of the Investment Tax Credit as an upfront payment rather than a tax credit.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has been signed into law. While the IRA is one of compromise, some good and some not-so-good, its impact on the energy sector is significant. For Clean Energy Group’s Resilient Power Project and its partners, the IRA will significantly influence nonprofits seeking to develop solar PV and battery storage (solar+storage) solutions in low-income communities by removing barriers to accessing significant federal tax incentives.

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German Farmer
AP News | Martin Meissner

Sweet return: German farmer gets both solar power and apples

Land trusts and farmers are interested in figuring out how agrivoltaics can help increase farm and ranch viability, soil health, and water management — and allow families to remain on their farms for generations to come.

Many of the apple trees growing beneath solar panels have been producing bountiful electricity during this year’s unusually sun-rich summer, while providing the fruit below with much-needed shade.

“The idea is simple,” said Nachtwey, whose farm lies in Gelsdorf, an hour’s drive south of Cologne. “To protect the orchard, without reducing the available growing surface and in particular maintaining production. On top of that there’s the solar electricity being generated on the same land.”

Large-scale solar installations on arable land are becoming increasingly popular in Europe and North America, as farmers seek to make the most of their land and establish a second source of revenue.

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Sheep
AP News

Bees, sheep, crops: solar developers tout multiple benefits

Large-scale solar installations on arable land are becoming increasingly popular in Europe and North America, as farmers seek to make the most of their land and establish a second source of revenue.

Silflower was among native plants that blanketed the vast North American prairie until settlers developed farms and cities. Nowadays confined largely to roadsides and ditches, the long-stemmed cousin of the sunflower may be poised for a comeback, thanks to solar energy.

Researchers are growing silflower at nine solar installations in the Minneapolis area, testing its potential as an oilseed crop. The deep-rooted perennial also offers forage for livestock and desperately needed habitat for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

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Cable Solar
Rute Foundation

Agrivoltaic solar tracker uses cables instead of buried steel

As extreme weather (including drought) stresses agriculture, the shade from well-designed solar panels may provide a respite that in the past might have been seen as an unwanted barrier. Cable, rather than posts as shown below, may allow for additional flexibility with farm use and reduce installation expenses.

The Suntracker system is suspended by cables, rather than mounted on steel driven into the ground, providing what the company says is the lowest levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for high-clearance solar. Rute reports that by using cables rather than steel foundations, steel use is reduced by as much as 30%.

Another advantage of the cable system is that the land does not have to be disturbed in order to install the system, which is a benefit in the agricultural industry. It also enables the land to be returned to its original condition in the event that the solar installation were to be removed…

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Agrivoltaics
Judy Anderson

Massachusetts Clean Energy Act eases path for agrivoltaic projects

You might consider sharing this at the local, regional, or state level to inspire policies that support farm viability, soil health, and keeping farmers on the land.

The Act clarifies that an agrivoltaic project is to be treated as an agricultural use, meaning that the land can continue to be classified as agricultural land for property tax purposes and that the project is exempt from special permit requirements.

This change in law further illustrates the legislature’s intent to help farmers continue their farming operations by utilizing renewable energy, and particularly solar energy, as a means of maintaining their land in agricultural use.

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Solar Sunflower
AgriSolar Clearinghouse

Solar energy and its place on the land

The Mississippi Valley Conservancy works in Wisconsin where they conserve a wide range of landscapes. The organization developed a Climate Action Plan and is working to help the community understand how local action can inspire big impacts.

In a world beset with climate change and its attendant fires and floods, the need for solar energy is immense — vital if the world is to quit burning fossil fuels, the primary cause of the climate crisis…

The trick, for those of us in the business of land conservation, is to make a contribution to that effort without compromising our missions of protecting biodiversity and working lands that produce the food we need. There’s a growing body of research and practical application that offers hope that this can happen using agrivoltaics, the practice of combining agriculture and solar energy collection — a dual use of the land…

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Hay Solar
Judy Anderson

Solar, haying, and owning the solar array

As extreme weather (including drought) stresses agriculture, the shade from well-designed solar panels may provide a respite that in the past might have been seen as an unwanted barrier.

Converting arable land to energy production undermines the future of farming. But innovators like Nate know it doesn’t have to be one or the other – if done right, solar can be leveraged to support farmers, rather than threaten them.

Seeing the Massachusetts SMART program as an opportunity for revenue diversification and farmland preservation, Nate pioneered a plan to own both the solar system and the land underneath. Million Little Sunbeams does not involve a lease to a solar developer but instead was designed to allow the Tassinari family to sell the excess energy to the surrounding community — a win for the family farm that has allowed it to stay in operation…

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Agrisolar
Iberdrola

Iberdrola starts up Spain’s first smart agrovoltaic plant in Toledo

We need to help municipalities and our respective states prioritize solar companies who want to install agrivoltaics can compete with traditional ground-mounted solar. We need the U.S. to up the vision of what could happen here.

While combining solar energy and agricultural land is not new, one component that makes the Winesolar project stand out is that it will have a tracking system, with trackers from PVH, that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the most efficient solar panel positioning over the vines at any time…

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