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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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Agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics works better with leafy greens, root crops

People want clean energy. Businesses want clean energy. Yet, where is it going to go? And how can it enhance farming and ranching, and not detract from it? Solar can enhance agricultural viability—but you need to spread the word and demand that your state, and the federal government, provide the incentives needed. It's a smart policy decision given the shocking loss of farms and ranches already underway.

[Solar] projects linked to agriculture have thus far shown the highest potential when combined with leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach, as well as with root crops such as potatoes, radishes, beets, and carrots. This is one of the conclusions of recent research developed on agrivoltaics by U.S. scientist Chad Higgins from the Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering at Oregon State University…

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Sheep Under Solar Panels
American Solar Grazing Association

A new vision for farming: chickens, sheep, and…solar panels

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 future generations? We have the technology. We just need the community will to make it happen.

Agrivoltaics doesn’t just include chickens. Other livestock can also roam around solar panels, and some researchers are experimenting with planting crops, too.

Animals that graze around solar fields offer several benefits, proponents of agrivoltaics say. Not only does their manure enrich the soil, their munching keeps plants from growing too tall and shading the panels. Another win: they lower vegetation maintenance costs, reducing the need for lawn mowers or landscapers…

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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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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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White Man Divests
Richard Drew/Associated Press

New York’s $226 billion pension fund is dropping fossil fuel stocks

“New York State’s pension fund, one of the world’s largest and most influential investors, will drop many of its fossil fuel stocks in the next five years and sell its shares in other companies that contribute to global warming by 2040, the state comptroller said on Wednesday.

With $226 billion in assets, New York’s fund wields clout with other retirement funds and its decision to divest from fossil fuels could accelerate a broader shift in global markets away from oil and gas companies, energy experts and climate activists said…”

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