Friday Feature: Agrivoltaics — farming under solar panels
With the push to seek alternative energy sources, solar farms are buying up farm land. Agrivoltaics is the combination of the two, so the land is not lost for food production. There are benefits to partial shade for crop production, such as lower irrigation requirements. The trick is to find the right mix to have both productive crop production and also adequate solar energy production. There are research projects in Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon to evaluate this opportunity that is already being utilized to some extent in Europe.
Check out the pros and cons of combining farming with solar installations…
Solar that supports farmers, soils, water
While states and communities around the U.S. are ramping up renewable energy commitments and incentivizing solar development, many farms are struggling. There is also growing concern that solar development could displace active agricultural use on productive farmland, with impacts to farm renters, local economies, and regional food systems. Without an integrated approach, achieving clean energy goals may come at the loss of some of our most fertile and economically viable farmland to solar development.
American Farmland Trust seeks a more collaborative and sustainable path forward towards a clean energy transition that supports healthy soils, wholesome food, and vibrant farms…
Growing plants — and providing solar energy
Access to fresh food is already a problem in many countries, and will likely get worse with more mouths to feed. This is where the concept of agrivoltaics could create a massive change. This farming setup mixes water, energy, and plant growth all in one space. Solar panels collect energy from the sun’s rays; underneath those panels is where the plants grow. The setup takes less water than the traditional way of farming, all-in-all creating a more sustainable way to grow food and create energy.
Joining Ira to talk about the promise of agrivoltaics is Dr. Chad Higgins, associate professor of biological and ecological engineering at Oregon State University, in Corvallis, Oregon.
Federal agrivoltaics research and programs
In this webinar Zachary Eldredge with the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) discussed the government’s agrivoltaics programs and recent developments in agrivoltaics engineering.
You can listen to the webinar and download the slides. You might want to join American Solar Grazing Association ($75/year) to stay abreast of research and practices related to dual-use, grazing/crop solar.
Climate Change Pilot Project
South Kingstown Land Trust was invited by the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resource Center (CRC) to participate in a pilot project to investigate how climate change could impact land trusts — whether impacts to our land holdings themselves or to our priorities for preservation.
For Rhode Island, the likely effects of climate change will include sea-level rise and increases in air and water temperature, precipitation, and storminess. The study was funded by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council…
Feed people; power economies; foster peace with agrivoltaics
“Amidst the noise, haste, and chaos of modern life there are more positive developments for humanity than one might think. Everyone focuses on the disasters of the climate crisis, and while those do motivate our daily work, we also feel it’s important to highlight the hopeful – the very real innovations pushing our clean energy movement forward…”
Land trust installs their own solar project
Coastal Rivers is working toward a goal of achieving carbon neutrality within the next five years. A major step toward this goal was to install energy-efficient heat pumps to heat and cool the renovated Denny Conservation & Education Center at Round Top Farm. The next step is to power those heat pumps — and the bulk of our electrical needs overall — with solar-generated energy.
We have a prime site for a solar installation at Round Top Farm in the southwest field below the large dirt parking lot by Darrows Barn. The slope aspect is ideal, and the topography limits visual impacts. We also have three-phase power to the site already, which will reduce construction costs…
SunCommon financing program helps Vermont organic farmers go solar
SunCommon, headquartered in Waterbury, Vermont, launched a program that offers to help Organic Valley farmers go solar with zero upfront costs. Organic Valley is the largest farmer-owned organic cooperative in the US with a footprint of 100+ Vermont farms. The program provides Organic Valley farmer-members with financing for solar and other renewable energy projects. Farmers benefit from a fully-funded solar installation with no upfront costs, and they save on their energy bill…
Organization to know: The American Solar Grazing Assoication
Want to Get Involved With Solar Grazing?
Well you’ve come to the right place. The American Solar Grazing Association (ASGA) was founded to promote grazing sheep on solar installations.
ASGA members are developing best practices that support shepherds and solar developers to both effectively manage solar installations and create new agribusiness profits.
The Nature Conservancy tool helps identify ideal solar farm sites in Georgia
They compared that information to maps of critical habitat, protected lands, and prime farmland. And they put their results into a free online tool.
It allows developers, natural resource agencies, and others to identify low-impact locations for new solar farms. And Gutierrez says the tool finds plenty of them…