Best Practices

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Technical Guidance for Utility-Scale Solar Installation and Development on Agricultural, Forested, and Natural Lands

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry presents this technical guide regarding the siting of utility-scale solar projects with consideration for valuable agricultural land, forest resources, and rare or unique natural areas. The guide is intended to provide practical information for those considering solar development on their property, as well as planning important preconstruction, construction, and post-construction/decommissioning activities.
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Agrivoltaics: Opportunities for Agriculture and the Energy Transition

This guide, developed in Germany by Fraunhofer, provides information on the potential of agrivoltaics, including the latest technologies and regulatory frameworks in this area. It also offers practical tips on how agrivoltaics can be used by farmers, municipalities and companies.
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Solar, Biodiversity, Land Use: Best Practice Guidelines

This report by SolarPower Europe provides guidelines to support solar industry stakeholders with information about environmental legislation at the EU and European national levels. It also addresses the potential impacts on land use and outlines key actions for suitable land identification for solar PV projects.
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Decommissioning Solar Energy Systems Resource Guide

When solar projects reach the end of their expected performance period, there are several management options. They include extending the performance period through reuse, refurbishment, or repowering of the facility or fully discontinuing operations and decommissioning the project. In this resource guide, the Center for Rural Affairs briefly expands upon these options as well as potential decommissioning plans, followed by suggestions for county governments once the decision to decommission a project has been made.
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Current status of agrivoltaic systems and their benefits to energy, food, environment, economy, and society

The rate of solar power generation is increasing globally at a significant increase in the net electricity demand, leading to competition for agricultural lands and forest invasion. Agrivoltaic systems, which integrate photovoltaic (PV) systems with crop production, are potential solutions to this situation. Currently, there are two types of agrivoltaic systems: 1) systems involving agricultural activities on available land in pre-existing PV facilities, and 2) systems intentionally designed and installed for the co-production of agricultural crops and PV power. Agrivoltaic systems can boost electricity generation efficiency and capacity, as well as the land equivalent ratio. They also generate revenue for farmers and entrepreneurs through the sale of electricity and crops. Therefore, these systems have the potential to sustain energy, food, the environment, the economy, and society. Despite the numerous advantages of both types of agrivoltaic systems, few studies on utilizing the available land area under existing ground-mounted PV systems for agricultural crop production have been conducted. Moreover, with several conventional solar power plant projects currently underway around the world, an expanding trend is anticipated. As a result, this article offers practical advice for agrivoltaic systems on how to implement an agricultural area under ground-mounted PV power systems without agricultural pre-plans. These systems are useful for policymaking and optimizing land use efficiency in terms of energy production, food supply, environmental impact, local economy, and sustainable societies.
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Photovoltaic Stormwater Management Research and Testing (PV-SMaRT) Potential Stormwater Barriers and Opportunities

In this document, the Great Plains Institute (GPI) identified existing permitting practices and standards for solar development in the five PV-SMaRT case study states (New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Colorado, and Oregon) and other states across the nation. GPI then completed a “barriers and opportunities” assessment of existing practices to identify opportunities for reducing solar development soft costs and compliance costs, while maintaining or improving water quality outcomes.
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Photovoltaic Storm Water Management Research and Testing: Barriers and Best Practices

This resource is an overview of the Photovoltaic Storm Water Management Research and Testing (PV-SMaRT) project, which seeks to develop and disseminate research-based, solar-specific resources for estimating storm water runoff at ground-mounted PV facilities as well as storm water management and water quality permitting best practices.
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Best Practices at the End of the Photovoltaic System Performance Period

Responsible and cost-effective dissolution of photovoltaic (PV) system hardware at the end of the performance period has emerged as an important business and environmental consideration. Alternatives include extending the performance period and existing contracts for power purchase, lease, and utility interconnect; refurbishing the plant by correcting any deficiencies; repowering the plant with new PV modules and inverters; or decommissioning the plant and removing all the hardware from the site. Often key decisions are made very early in the project development and might require decommissioning by some certain date after the end of a power purchase agreement. To “abandon in place” is not an alternative acceptable to landowners and regulators, so any financial prospectus should include costs associated with decommissioning, even if those costs are deferred by extending operations, refurbishment, or repowering. Decommissioning costs are driven by regulations regarding the handling and disposal of waste, with reuse and recycling of PV modules and other components preferred as a way to reduce both costs and environmental impact. Each alternative is discussed with order-of-magnitude costs, and recommendations are provided considering site-specific details of that situation, such as estimated costs to refurbish or repower, projected revenue from continued operations, and tax considerations. Decisions affecting alternatives at the end of the performance period for a PV plant are often limited by local regulations regarding permitting and land-use planning and state or federal regulations regarding handling and disposal of waste. Decisions regarding the final disposition of a system are often made much earlier—in the development of contracts, permits, and agreements regarding construction of the plant in the first place. Because a main driver of the PV market is concern about environmental sustainability, everyone in the PV industry—from PV module manufacturers, to project developers, to project owners and financiers, to designers and specifiers, to O&M providers—needs to ensure that liabilities such as hazardous materials are avoided and that the provisions made at the end of the performance period extract the most economic value and entail the least environmental impact as possible—or at least comply with all environmental regulations. In many cases, the site control, utility interconnection, and civil improvements such as access roads and stormwater drainage will have a high value and could justify repowering with new PV modules and inverters.
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Plan and Recommendations for Financial Resources for Decommissioning of Utility-Scale Solar Panel Projects

The North Caroline Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ or Department) and the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) found that solar panels are not expected to pose a significant environmental risk to the State while in operation. They also recommended that additional time was needed to further study the feasibility and advisability of establishing a statewide standard to ensure adequate financial resources are available for the decommissioning of utility-scale solar facilities, also referred to as financial assurance (FA). It was not deemed necessary at that time because the current fleet of solar facilities would not reach the end of their useful life for about 10 years. The Department recommended that a future study on FA involve stakeholders and participation from the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC), address salvage values and incentives to reuse, repower, or recycle end-of-life photovoltaic modules, and describe market forces necessary to drive the recommended end-of-life management options. North Carolina is one of the nation’s leaders for the number of solar facilities supplying power to the electricity grid. North Carolina currently has about 5,100 megawatts(MW) of grid-connected solar power. This power is supplied by more than 660 facilities that are greater than 1 MW in size. These facilities are located in 79 counties, and the land is generally leased to the solar developer by the landowner. Based on the last three years of data obtained from the Energy Information Administration, an average of approximately 50 facilities are expected to be added in North Carolina per year, providing an additional 500 MW to the grid per year in total. Facilities are expected to get larger in the future, with more facilities expected to be greater than 5 MW.
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The 5 Cs of Agrivoltaic Success Factors in the United States: Lessons From the InSPIRE Research Study

This report examines the Innovative Solar Practices Integrated with Rural Economies and Ecosystems (InSPIRE) project, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) starting in 2015. Over the past seven years, the project’s multiple phases have studied the colocation of solar with crops, grazing cattle or sheep, and/or pollinator-friendly native plants, and the resulting ecological and agricultural benefits. According to InSPIRE research, there are five central elements that lead to agrivoltaic success: (a) Climate, Soil, and Environmental Conditions – The location must be appropriate for both solar generation and the desired crops or ground cover. Generally, land that is suitable for solar is suitable for agriculture, as long as the soil can sustain growth. (b) Configurations, Technologies, and Designs – The choice of solar technology, the site layout, and other infrastructure can affect everything from how much light reaches the solar panels to whether a tractor, if needed, can drive under the panels. (c) Crop Selection and Cultivation Methods, Seed and Vegetation Designs, and Management Approaches – Agrivoltaic projects should select crops or ground covers that will thrive in the local climate and under solar panels, and that are profitable in local markets. (d) Compatibility and Flexibility – Agrivoltaics should be designed to accommodate the competing needs of solar owners, solar operators, and farmers or landowners to allow for efficient agricultural activities. (e) Collaboration and Partnerships – For any project to succeed, communication and understanding between groups is crucial. Successes and failures of prior agrivoltaic projects will inform new innovations as agrivoltaic projects continue to be deployed globally. This report represents a synthesis of lessons learned from agrivoltaic research field sites located across the United States as part of the InSPIRE project. The projects considered represent a diverse mix of geographies, agrivoltaic activities, and technology configurations. In this report, we have provided a list of features that contribute to the success of agrivoltaic installations and research projects, with partnerships playing a crucial role in both. The researchers suggest future research activities that align with these core principles as well as other approaches to grow agrivoltaic research efforts globally.
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Agrisolar Best Practices Guidelines

Agrisolar is a rapidly expanding sector with incredible potential. It brings together two major sectors of our society and economy: agriculture and energy. The goal of this guide is to draw on past experiences, to take stock of “what works” and “what doesn’t,” in order to advise local and international actors on successfully developing Agrisolar. This first edition of the SolarPower Europe Agrisolar Best Practices Guidelines takes a step in joining forces with agricultural stakeholders to better understand how the solar and agricultural sector can work more closely together, enhancing synergies to advance the energy and climate transition. Every Agrisolar project is unique as it must be adapted to the local agronomical, environmental, and socioeconomic conditions of the project site, and adapted to the needs of farmers and other relevant stakeholders. The most important element to ensure that Agrisolar projects perform effectively as agricultural and photovoltaic projects is to begin by clearly defining a Sustainable Agriculture Concept. Defining a Sustainable Agriculture Concept means assessing how to improve the sustainability of the agricultural practices carried out on site, assessing whether the project can provide local ecosystem services, assessing how it can be best integrated within the local social and economic setting, all while generating clean electricity. Following best practices throughout all 19 areas identified in these guidelines will ensure Agrisolar projects deliver tangible benefits, as planned in the Sustainable Agriculture Concept.
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Community Solar: Best Practices for Utilities in the South

As solar energy continues to become more affordable, many families are expressing interest in this local, clean power source, but are unable to install a solar system at their homes for various reasons. In fact, due to structural constraints, shading from trees, and other issues, about 75% of residential rooftop area in America is not suitable for hosting a solar system. This prevents a large segment of the population from taking advantage of solar energy. The solution to this problem is Community Solar. Community Solar (aka Shared Solar) takes place through the development of solar energy projects that provide power to multiple community members. Community Solar systems are typically sited close to the community they will serve. These programs leverage economies of scale to reduce the price of solar for individual customers. This model allows Southerners to access the benefits of solar energy even if they would be unable to install solar panels on their own homes or businesses. Community Solar can be utility-sponsored (either a utility developing its own program or working with a solar company to offer a program), or it can be third party-sponsored in states that allow for competition. By offering well-designed Community Solar projects, utilities can give their customers meaningful access to affordable, local solar power and tangible control of their energy choices. By providing families more options to lower their energy costs and take advantage of the South’s vast solar resource, Community Solar can create healthier, cleaner, and stronger communities across the region. Community Solar programs also provide benefits for utilities by increasing customer satisfaction, bolstering clean energy investment, and contributing to local economic development. Utilities can take advantage of economies of scale by choosing the optimal system size and number of participants. They can also decide which location will offer the most value to the grid. Community Solar can be a win-win by providing tangible benefits to participating customers, strengthening local communities, and delivering valuable clean energy to the grid. We encourage utilities to adopt the following best practices when developing Community Solar programs to ensure that all customers receive meaningful access to solar power through this innovative program.
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SPE Best Practices Guidelines for Agrisolar

This best practices report includes many orchardvoltaic case studies in Europe, including: Albers raspberry farm in the Netherlands, strawberry greenhouses in France, citrus fruit and aromatic herbs grown in PV greenhouses in France as well as land regeneration and an animal husbandry agrisolar project in Hauet-Garonne, France. These projects presented in this report can be useful in the development of similar agrisolar projects in the future.
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Solar Power Europe Agrisolar Best Practices Guidelines

This AgriSolar Best Practices Guide is intended to assist farmers, PV developers, regulators, and other stakeholders in developing high quality Agrisolar projects. The guide provides Best Practices for Agri-PV systems, PV on agricultural buildings, and open-field applications. Also included in this guide are discussions of trends and innovations in the AgriSolar community. This guide defines the key actions required of all parties involved in project development to maximize the sustainability of Agrisolar projects, from an agronomical, ecological, and financial perspective.