Entries by Danielle Miska

To Mow or Not to Mow?

Timing field management in and around solar fields to optimize conservation opportunities for declining grassland birds Dr. Amy Johnson, Conservation Biologist and Program Director, Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute Biodiversity is declining globally at an alarming rate. While multiple ecosystems are at risk, our planet’s terrestrial grasslands are suffering precipitous […]

Financing and Incentive Options for Solar

By: Andrew Valainis Director, Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA) According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost to install solar has dropped more than 60% over the last decade alone, with the average residential system costing half of what it did in 2010.[1] Still, solar photovoltaic systems are a large investment, and the up-front […]

Characterizing the Ecological Implications of Utility-Scale Solar Energy on Fallowed Farmlands

Written By: Amanda Gersoff (M.Sc. student), Dr. Seeta Sistla Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo Our team is studying the ecological aspects of utility-scale solar arrays set on former agricultural land whose understory is maintained by sheep grazing. By gaining a better understanding of the ecological implications associated with […]

Ecosystem Services of Solar-Pollinator Habitat

By Lee Walston and Heidi Hartmann, Argonne National Laboratory Many of us have witnessed regional land-use transformations towards renewable energy in the last decade. As the fastest growing electricity generating sector in the U.S., solar energy development has grown more than 20x in the past decade and is projected to be the dominant renewable source […]

Sweet Deal: Beekeeping at Solar Sites Offers Economic and Environmental Benefits

By Lindsay Mouw, Center for Rural Affairs What’s the latest buzz about solar energy? It’s likely the thousands of honey bees that call solar fields home. Commonly referred to as “agrisolar beekeeping,” the practice of placing beehives on or near solar fields is a burgeoning industry. While photovoltaic panels are generating energy from the sun, […]

Solar PV and the Importance of Asking for High-Performance Ground Cover

By Rob Davis, Connexus Energy Seven years after designing our first solar array, more than 20 million deep-rooted and pollinator-friendly plants across more than 150 acres are helping us control costs while maximizing local benefits for our community, resulting in national recognition and hometown goodwill — but it almost didn’t happen. Now, our standard practice […]

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Smart Solar Siting on Farmland: Achieving Climate Goals While Strengthening the Future for Farming in New York

Solar siting is advancing rapidly in New York to meet the state’s climate goals of 70% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2040, and much of that development is targeted towards farmland. However, with the right policies, incentives and research, solar development can avoid or minimize the most serious negative impacts on […]

Agrivoltaics Provide Mutual Benefits Across the Food-Energy-Water Nexus in Drylands

The vulnerabilities of food, energy and water systems to projected climatic change make building resilience in renewable energy and food production a fundamental challenge. Researchers investigate a novel approach to solve this problem by creating a hybrid of collocated agriculture and solar photovoltaic (PV) infrastructure. They took an integrative approach—monitoring microclimatic conditions, PV panel temperature, soil moisture and irrigation water use, plant ecophysiological function and plant biomass production within this ‘agrivoltaics’ ecosystem and in traditional PV installations and agricultural settings to quantify trade-offs. They found that shading by the PV panels provides multiple additive and synergistic benefits, including reduced plant drought stress, greater food production and reduced PV panel heat stress. This study represents the first experimental and empirical examination of the potential for an agrivoltaic system to positively impact each component of the food–energy–water nexus. The results from a dryland system indicate a reduction in daytime temperatures of the solar panels (energy) and microclimate under the panels (food), and a dampening in the diurnal fluctuations of each and day-to-day fluctuations in soil moisture in irrigated agriculture (water). Together, our findings suggest that a dryland agrivoltaic system may be a resilient energy and food system that has reduced vulnerabilities to future climate variability. However, there are probable barriers to wider adoption, which include challenges associated with some forms of mechanized farming and harvest and the additional costs associated with elevating PV arrays to allow for food production in the understorey. An integrated approach to the physical and social dimensions of our food and energy systems is key in supporting decision making regarding PV development and sustainable food and energy production in a changing world

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Herbage Yield, Lamb Growth and Foraging Behavior in Agrivoltaic Production System

This study was conducted to compare lamb growth and pasture production from solar pastures in agrivoltaic systems and traditional open pastures over 2 years in Oregon. The discussion dives into a variety of topics, including: reduction of pasture production due to trampling, production in fully shaded areas, herbage variation and its effect on lamb production and lamb behavior relating to water intake and shade usage. These considerations could be helpful for agrisolar development when lambs will be used for grazing, etc.