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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.