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Agrivoltaics. An economic lifeline for American farmers?

I thought you might appreciate this very thoughtful video about the role of "agrivoltaics" in water conservation, farm viability, and economic impact.

As natural systems become more stressed by climate change and the resulting disasters and impacts, natural climate solutions become more vulnerable.

Nature needs renewables — and our collective work to reduce energy consumption — to flourish.

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Cowboys
MALT

Running on renewable energy

Given that climate change, if left unchecked, will destroy much of the lands and waters we are working to conserve, conservation groups are switching to renewable energy sources as a moral and mission-centered move. It also can save them money.

Talking about how, and why, your land trust has transitioned to renewable energy, is important. Modeling this shift is a leadership move that will inspire others to do the same. Posting it on the land trust’s website, or the energy provider’s website, so folks can find out more about it, is smart:

MALT helps preserve the rich agricultural heritage of Marin County by protecting its clean water, clear air, and open space. Climate change threatens Marin’s farming way of life. We operate on 100% renewable energy from MCE because reducing fossil fuel pollution will help our cause in the long run. MALT is proud to join a community of businesses and organizations in Marin who choose to reduce our carbon impact through MCE’s Deep Green Energy Program.

MALT is also raising the profile about the importance of “Carbon Farming“— demonstrating how they are walking the walk to make a difference in a variety of ways. Check out that information HERE.

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Ev Charging
Mendocino Land Trust

EV Stations Complete

I've been reaching out to my Congressman to see if there is a way to tap federal and/or state funding for land trusts to install electric vehicle chargers at their conservation areas and local parks. That's something you might want to consider, too. Mendocino Land Trust worked on this very issue several years ago.

“Mendocino County is on the road to a cleaner and more sustainable future with the installation of 13 new electric vehicle charging stations along the coast and in Willits. Thanks to a $498,040 grant from the California Energy Commission awarded to Mendocino Land Trust in 2014, a string of new electric vehicle charging stations are up and running.”

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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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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 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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Solar Panels And Tractor
Judy Anderson

Solar siting on farmland: lessons learned from across the northeast

We need to transition to renewables as soon as possible to save the lands and waters we all care about. That means a lot of renewables—and they can't all be installed on rooftops and brownfields. With farms going out of business, renewables can help them stay in business if they are done well. You can help people know what that means.

Are you interested in how farmland viability and solar can work together? Would you like to be able to share examples of projects that improve soil health, farm diversity, and stem the loss of farmland? You might be interested in watching American Farmland Trust Northeast’s recent webinar focusing on Connecticut policy opportunities and the various policies in the northeast.

Across the country farmland is being lost at an alarming rate: 2,000 acres of agricultural land are converted every day. With the push to transition off fossil fuels, solar development could take more out of production. But it doesn’t have to be that way. States could invest in elevated, compatible solar that could help farmers and ranchers stay in business and keep the land in production.

See what your region can glean from this webinar. There’s a window to lead on this.

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