500MW of Community Solar to be Deployed by Community Solar Collective 

“Aggreko Energy Transition Solutions (ETS), a business unit of Scottish modular power equipment distributor Aggreko Ltd., announced it would become the capital partner to the Farmers Powering Communities (FPC) platform, a farmland community solar development collective. With preservation and non-profit groups Edelen Renewables, the American Farmland Trust and community solar aggregator Arcadia, the FPC platform is focused on building out 500 MW of community solar projects over the next decade sited on rural farmland.  

The farming community solar program will advance projects of 25 to 50 acres to provide green energy to the many residents who don’t have access to rooftop solar or a local clean energy source. These could be low- to middle-income residents who may not be able to afford solar, people who rent and don’t own their roof, or people whose homes are not situated to take advantage of the sun’s energy.” – PV Magazine 

Jack’s Solar Garden Hosts Agrivoltaic Bill Signing  

Colorado governor Jared Polis recently signed Colorado Senate Bill 092. The bill signing was attended by Senator Chris Hansen; Representative Karen McCormick, DVM; and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg. The signing  was hosted at Jack’s Solar Garden, an agrisolar operation in Boulder County, Colorado, and one of the largest agrivoltaic operations in the country. 

“In support of the use of agrivoltaics, which is the integration of solar energy generation facilities with agricultural activities, section 2 of the bill authorizes the agricultural drought and climate resilience office to award grants for new or ongoing demonstration or research projects that demonstrate or study the use of agrivoltaics.” – colorado.gov 

Oregon State University Shows Benefits of Agrivoltaics  

“On a small research farm outside of Wilsonville, Chad Higgins feels like he’s watching the future of farming and energy production unfold. Higgins, a biological and environmental engineering professor at Oregon State University, oversees one of the largest experiments in agrivoltaics in the world.   

Using agrivoltaic systems, Higgins has grown tomatoes with bigger yields and dry beans with higher protein content. He’s raised sheep in pastures under solar panels and, though the sheep don’t grow any faster, he’s able to graze more of them per acre because the grass grows more quickly. He’s also found that, because the plants cool the environment around them, the solar panels don’t run as hot and produce energy more efficiently.” - KGW 

US Agriculture Industry Demonstrates Ability to Embrace New Technologies and Practices

“The rising tide of opposition to large-scale solar farms has been impacting the US solar industry, but over the long run, PV stakeholders have the butterflies on their side. Solar developers are eager to pitch their projects as pollinator habitats that replace cultivated crops and neglected land with native plants, benefiting the property owner and nearby farms. The pollinator angle helps to undercut complaints that solar arrays are an inappropriate use of farmland, and it supports the case for farmers to adopt new technologies that benefit their industry.

Minnesota has become the epicenter of the solar-plus-pollinator trend, with local electric cooperative Connexus Energy leading the way. That’s no accident. A 2016 state law set up Minnesota’s Habitat Friendly Solar program, which incentivizes property owners and solar developers to claim benefits for gamebirds as well as songbirds and pollinating insects.” – Cleantechnica

Agrisolar Can Lower Food Costs, Reduce Emissions, and Improve Farming

“The agricultural industries in Europe, Asia and the United States have been aggressively expanding their agrivoltaic farms with wide public support. In Europe, solar panels are put over different types of crops, including fruit trees. Meanwhile, in China, agrivoltaics is used to reverse desertification which is literally using solar panels to green former deserts.

The life cycle analysis of agrivoltaics, which assesses its impact from its conception to use, found that these solar-covered farms emit 69.3 per cent less greenhouse gases and demand 82.9 per cent less fossil energy compared to separate food farms and solar farms-based production.” – Morning Ag Clips

Dominion Energy Lambscaping on Solar Sites  

“As part of Dominion’s solar grazing program, sheep clean up more than 40 acres a day across five of their solar farms. ‘We are trying to get creative and innovative in ways in vegetation management,’ said Dominion Energy spokesperson Tim Eberly. It’s more environmentally friendly, too, because it saves emissions generated by lawn mowing equipment.  

The digested grass and manure also help improve water filtration from rain, which provides a cooling aspect for more than 80,000 solar panels, which, in turn, also makes them more efficient.” – WTKR 

Kentucky Farm Uses Sheep to Graze Solar Site 

“Since 2020, Shetland and Katadin sheep have been roaming and eating grass on the 50-acre solar facility in Harrodsburg, southeast of Lexington. What started out as 25 sheep in the flock has grown to 200 sheep. 

‘By using sheep rather than lawnmowers, what we‘re doing here is both more environmentally friendly and helps manage expenses by keeping maintenance costs down. We also hope our unique approach can be a model for other utilities and their solar initiatives.’ Aron Patrick, director of Research and Development at LG&E and KU parent company PPL Corporation, said in a news release Wednesday.” – WDRB 

Hexagon Energy Plans to Develop Pollinator Habitat on Solar Site  

“Charlottesville-based Hexagon Energy hopes to install solar panels on 650 acres near Scottsville. After 80 years of tree farming, the land there is exhausted, so Hexagon’s Scott Remer says the company will cultivate native grasses and flowers to restore the soil. 

‘It’s about 500 acres of meadow habitat that’s actually going to be established from a cutover moonscape right now to about 500 acres of meadow habitat, and that’s not even counting clover and plants and flowers and grasses that are under the panels,’” – WVTF 

Thistlerock Meadery is set to keep 100 hives on the solar site once development is completed. 

Research Shows Solar Shade Helps Restore Biocrusts

“Arizona State University (ASU) professor Ferran Garcia-Pichel and his research team have proposed to use solar arrays as a solution to the problem of excess heat and light, creating a shaded nursery to promote biocrust growth.

The researchers performed a proof-of-concept experiment in the Sonoran Desert, studying biocrust growth for three years. During the study, the PV array promoted biocrust formation, doubling biocrust total biomass and tripling its coverage area when compared to open areas with similar soil characteristics. Natural recovery of harvested biocrusts can take six to eight years to recuperate without intervention, but re-inoculated areas under the solar panels were able to nearly fully recover within one year.” – PV Magazine

More information on this research can be found here.

Commodity or Specialty: Tracking Pollinator-Friendly SRECS

“The M-RETS platform—the leading renewable environmental attribute tracking system used by Fortune 25 companies, utilities, and regulators—this year will begin tracking an additional environmental attribute associated with grid-scale solar projects: a pollinator-friendly designation. M-RETS already tracks solar renewable energy credits (called S-RECs) and Minnesota is one of a number of states that have created an official standard and system recognizing solar projects that utilize ground cover that provides meaningful benefits to pollinators, song birds, and game birds.

This additional data gives solar energy buyers the opportunity to encourage the development of pollinator-friendly solar and stack additional environmental benefits on their energy purchase.” – M-RETS

This can be thought of as if your company is buying a commodity product or a specialty product. If these options are the same price, would your company prefer to buy a commodity SREC or a boutique SREC?

Spade Develops Agrivoltaic Software  

“Solar developer and federal grant recipient Sandbox Solar has released a beta version of its agrivoltaic power plant software modeling tool that aids in the design and optimization of solar panels and the crops underneath. 

Sandbox Solar, a solar contractor, has been developing a (software) tool, called Spade. Spade aims to help solar developers determine the best crop types and solar panel layouts for their projects. The tool made it into the fifth and final round of the Department of Energy’s “American Made” solar innovation program.” – PV Magazine 

Spade is a stakeholder in the AgriSolar Clearinghouse. 

Global Agrivoltaics Market Valued at $9.3 Billion 

“Agrivoltaics, the combination of farming practices with energy produced by solar photovoltaics (PV), is forecast to become a $9.3 billion marketplace by 2031, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.1% in that timeframe from $3.6 billion a year ago, according to a research note by India-based market research company Allied Analytics.” – PV Magazine 

Solar Could Play Important Role in Cannabis Industry 

“Solar energy and cannabis cultivation are old bedfellows. PV pioneer John Schaeffer has even credited solar with facilitating the northern California cannabis industry, which in turn supported the nascent PV sector. Now, as the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis gathers pace, solar continues to perform a key role.  

Canndescent Senior Director of Compliance Andrew Mochulsky told PV Magazine the Colorado Desert’s unrelenting sunshine and limited cloud cover make solar a no-brainer. ‘We’re in the heart of solar and wind country so it made sense to bring solar online,’ he says. ‘We also think it’s just the right thing to do.’”– PV Magazine 

Research Shows Crops Can Boost Photovoltaic Panel Performance and Longevity 

“We now have, for the first time, a physics-based tool to estimate the costs and benefits of co-locating solar panels and commercial agriculture from the perspective of increased power conversion efficiency and solar-panel longevity,” said lead author Henry Williams, a doctoral student at Cornell. 

“‘There is potential for agrivoltaic systems – where agriculture and solar panels coexist – to provide increased passive cooling through taller panel heights, more reflective ground cover and higher evapotranspiration rates compared to traditional solar farms,’ said senior author Max Zhang, professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, ‘We can generate renewable electricity and conserve farmland through agrivoltaic systems.’” – News Wise  

The study can be found here

170 MW of Agrivoltaics to be Developed in Italy  

Enel Green Power has started building a 170 MW agrivoltaics plant in Viterbo, Italy. The Rome-based company claims it will be Italy’s largest agrivoltaics installation upon completion. The plant will feature bifacial PV modules mounted on trackers, both from undisclosed manufacturers.  

Enel is using a ‘solar-first’ approach to solar and agriculture, with electricity generation remaining the main goal. Its approach is designed to retrofit large-scale solar plants to allow crops to grow between the trackers and the panels. Agriculture is integrated into existing solar farms, rather than the other way around, as is often the case in agrivoltaics projects.” – PV Magazine 

Oregon Research Shows Agrisolar Benefits Crops and Livestock 

“Putting solar panels on farmland, known as agrivoltaics, has been a bit of a political hot-potato in some parts of Europe and the U.S. For environmental engineer Chad Higgins, at Oregon State University, the choice between farmland and energy is a false one. There has to be thoughtful design, he says, but ’our research indicates they can coexist and even create mutual benefits.’ 

Researchers around the world are exploring growing everything from grapes and raspberries to potatoes and wheat under and between photovoltaic panels. Higgins has shown that sheep will preferentially graze in field areas where shade was offered by solar panels; lambs that foraged under solar panels put on as much weight as those in open fields and in late spring needed less water.”  – Reuters 

NYPA Study Provides Best Practices for Agrivoltaic Systems

“The New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced the release of a new report, Agrivoltaic Leading Practices, that recommends proven and innovative approaches on integrating dual-land use for agriculture and solar energy production. The study determined that a best practice agrivoltaic site ideally involves stakeholder collaboration, community education, policy incentives, site safety practices, and site-individualized crop selection and solar-array design.

Researchers who authored the new report examined how native vegetation, pollinators, low maintenance plants, agricultural crops as well as grazing livestock can coexist on the same parcel of land as a solar energy project.” – The Mountain Eagle

Research Shows Crops and Solar Panels Benefit from Co-Existence

In the threatening trouble of climate change, growing commercial crops on solar farms is a potentially efficient use of agricultural land that can both increase commercial food production and improve solar panel performance and longevity, according to new Cornell research.

“’We now have, for the first time, a physics-based tool to estimate the costs and benefits of co-locating solar panels and commercial agriculture from the perspective of increased power conversion efficiency and solar-panel longevity,’ said lead author Henry Williams, a doctoral student in Cornell Engineering.” – Cornell Chronicle

New Solar Panels Harness Full Light Spectrum and Increase Crop Yields

“According to a new study from the University of California, the blue part of the light spectrum is the most efficient for solar energy production, while the red part is better for plant growth and crop yield. Now, scientists are investigating how harnessing the sun’s complete light spectrum can improve agrivoltaic system’s effectiveness in arid agricultural areas.” – Horti Daily

Agrisolar Clearinghouse Hosts Farm to Table Event at Biosphere 2  

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse held an AgriSolar Farm to Table event  at Biosphere 2 in Tucson, Arizona, last week, in partnership with the GreenBiz23 conference. Similar to the AgriSolar Clearinghouse Follow the Sun field trips, the AgriSolar Farm to Table events bring members of the agrisolar community together to see, touch, taste, and celebrate the delicious foods grown and grazed at solar farms around the country.

Members of the Agrisolar Clearinghouse, partners and a few others pose for a photo.

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse, along with sponsor Enel North America and partners from Biosphere 2, Connexus Energy, NREL, InSPIRE, Jack’s Solar Garden, and Columbia University, networked with attendees while they enjoyed lunch and refreshments prepared by Chefs Erin, Mateo, and Janos. The menu highlighted foods grown and grazed under solar arrays, including honey, beans, lamb, salad greens, potatoes, and saffron. Discussions ensued amongst attendees while Enel awarded Bare Honey solar-grown honey and the highly coveted agrivoltaic Lego sets.  

Attendees enjoying a solar-grown lunch with live music.

During the lunch, attendees also enjoyed learning about the Biosphere 2’s agrivoltaic project from Dr. Greg Barren-Gafford and graduate students Kai Lepley, Nesrine Rouini, Alyssa Salazar, and Caleb Ortega. Dr. Barren-Gafford provided a background on Biosphere 2, as well as research conducted at the site and its application to agrivoltaics throughout the country. 

Sarah Bendok (right), stands with researcher Nesrine Rouini outside the Biosphere’s agrisolar operation.

Also attending the event was Sarah Bendok, a high-school freshman from Phoenix, Arizonaand founder of Growing Green, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on improving agriculture while simultaneously decreasing negative impacts on the environment. Bendok is planning to create an agrivoltaic site at her local community garden and is participating in the AgriSolar Clearinghouse’s peer-to-peer mentoring program under the guidance of Dr. Barron-Gafford and graduate student Nesrine Rouini in pursuit of obtaining the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Attendees arrive at the event outside Biosphere 2.

Thank you to Dr. Barron-Gafford and the Greg Barron-Gafford Research Group; Jesse Puckett; Enel; Rob Davis; Biosphere 2; University of Arizona; Chefs Erin, Mateo, and Janos; the AgriSolar Clearinghouse team; and all the good people that braved the weather to join our agrisolar community in the celebration.  

A happy attendee with some solar-grown refreshments.

More photos from the event can be found here: AgriSolar Farm to Table at Biosphere 2 | Flickr

Sign up for the AgriSolar Extra to be sure you know about upcoming Follow the Sun Tour stops.  

University of Arizona Researchers Awarded $1.2 Million to Explore Agrisolar 

“Researchers will test three different watering strategies, ranging from intensive irrigation to almost no water, and use the shadows cast by solar panels to provide benefits to the agricultural process. The most heavily watered plot will closely replicate current agricultural practices and include plants with greater water needs, like tomatoes and varieties of lettuce. The second plot will involve watering to establish growth, but much less thereafter, to reintroduce native grasses. The final plot will require little to no watering and include ‘climate smart’ plants that have grown for hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the region: prickly pear, agave, legumes and others.” – University of Arizona 

Germany’s Vattenfall Invests in 76-Megawatt Agrisolar Project 

“For the first time, Vattenfall will implement this innovative concept of land use on a commercial scale with partners. The aim of the project in Tützpatz is to combine module types on different mounting systems with suitable agricultural uses over an area of 95 ha, and thus gain further practical experience for future commercial projects of this kind. According to current plans, construction at Tützpatz is scheduled to start in early summer 2023.” a– Reve 

Results of Agrisolar Soybean Pilot Project Revealed by PV Developer 

“French solar developer TSE, in association with Alliance BFC, has unveiled the initial results of a pilot study in France on how solar panels can affect soybean growth. The teams observed solid vegetative growth of the soybeans, with normal flowering, fertilization, and physiological maturation. The six varieties tested presented a diversity of yields: up to 25% difference in yield under the canopy and 19% on the control field.” – PV Magazine 

Oregon Research Studies Use of Vertical PV for Crop Production 

 “There are many different ways to install agrivoltaic arrays. One common method is to raise the array to leave space for farming equipment or livestock to move freely below. Another trending design is to orient the PV arrays vertically, leaving wide open spaces in between the array rows. 

The paper found that an area about the size of Maryland would be needed if agrivoltaics were to meet 20% of U.S. electricity generation. That’s about 13,000 square miles, or 1% of current U.S. farmland. At a global scale, it is estimated that 1% of all farmlands could produce the world’s energy needs if converted to solar PV.” – PV Magazine 

Research Shows Translucent Solar Panels Optimize Crop and Solar Harvest 

“Associate professor Majdi Abou Najm from the Univ. of California, Davis, tested organic solar panels made from translucent material that absorb the blue light to generate electricity, but allow the red light with its longer wavelengths to pass through to the crops below. 

At the UC Davis Agricultural Experiment Station, Abou Najm and his team planted three different plots of processing tomatoes, a common central valley California crop, under a canopy of selective red light, another of selective blue, and a third uncovered plot. 

GNN has reported before on the recent phenomenon of ‘agrivoltaics,’ a practice of growing shade tolerant crops under solar panel arrays. The shade protects the crops from heat stress, while the plants’ transpiration humidifies the air beneath the panels, cooling them down and increasing their electricity output.” – Good News Network 

Win for America’s Farmers: Harvesting Solar Energy 

“America’s solar industry has boomed in recent years, and is slated for a big boost from the Democrats’ recently passed climate bill. Yet solar still only accounts for about 3 percent of electricity flowing into America’s grid—less than one-seventh the share from coal. If we want to phase out fossil fuels and accommodate an electric vehicle revolution, the sun’s contribution has to rise dramatically—and fast. But where to put all the panles?

The best places for solar installations, according to a 2019 study from the University of Utah and Oregon State, tend to be the areas where we already grow our food. That’s because, just like sun-loving tomato plants that fare poorly when the mercury creeps north of 85 °F, photovoltaic (PV) panels lose their efficiency at higher temperatures. But that doesn’t mean we have to starve ourselves to keep lights on and cars humming. By elevating solar panels far enough above the ground so people, plants, and animals can operate underneath, we can “essentially harvest the sun twice,” says University of Arizona researcher Greg Barron-Gafford. Enough sunlight to grow crops gets past the panels, which also act as a shield against extreme heat, drought, and storms.” – Mother Jones  

5 Signs the US Agrisolar Revolution has Begun  

“An upswell of opposition to large-scale solar power plants on farms took shape in the U.S. last spring, partly fueled by conspiracy theories about climate change. Nevertheless, farmland is attractive to solar developers. Now they have a new support system on their side, in the form of agrivoltaics.” – Triplepundit.com  

Solar Energy Corporation of India Issues Tender to Install Agrisolar Pumps 

“New Delhi: The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) on Monday issued a tender for setting up agricultural solar pumps in selected states pan-India under component-B of the PM-KUSUM scheme of the renewable energy ministry.  

‘Individual farmers will be supported to install standalone solar agriculture pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP for replacement of existing diesel agriculture pumps and irrigation systems in off-grid areas, where grid supply is not available. Installation of new pumps will be permitted under this scheme except in dark zone areas,’ said the SECI tender document.” – Energyworld.com 

UC Davis Study Shows Harvesting Various Light Spectra Benefits Agrisolar  

“Scientists from the University of California, Davis, are investigating how to better harvest the sun — and its optimal light spectrum — to make agrivoltaic systems more efficient in arid agricultural regions like California. 

Their study, published in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, found that the red part of the light spectrum is more efficient for growing plants, while the blue part of the spectrum is better used for solar production.” UCDavis.com 

Massachusetts Sees Increase in Agrisolar Incentives 

“A Massachusetts incentive program for projects that blend solar energy and agricultural production shows signs of finally gaining momentum after a slow rollout that has at times frustrated solar developers and farmers alike. 

In 2018, Massachusetts became the first state to offer financial incentives for “dual-use” or “agrivoltaic” solar projects built above active agricultural land. Since the launch, however, just three projects have gotten up and running. Another eight have qualified for the incentive but not yet been built.” – Energynews.com  

DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office Announces $8 Million in Projects for Agrivoltaics Research 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office announced $8 million in new projects that will research agrivoltaics—agricultural production, such as crop production, livestock grazing, and pollinator habitat underneath solar panels and/or in between rows of solar panels. 

The Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale (FARMS) funding program will advance agrivoltaics practices and show how it can provide new economic opportunities to farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry. They explore different ways to implement agrivoltaics that will address concerns from the solar industry and farmers. Currently, less than 2% of solar systems utilize agrivoltaic practices.” – Energy.gov  

AgriSolar Clearinghouse partner Greg-Barren Gafford from The University of Arizona is among the award recipients. Learn more about award recipients, which also include Rutgers and Ohio State University, here.  

USDA Announces Climate Smart Commodity Awards 

USDA Announced 71 climate-smart commodity awards in round 2 of the initiative. Among the awardees is The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UT-RGV), with the project “Validating Agrivoltaic Technology with Underserved Agricultural Producers.”  

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse will serve as a technical assistance provider for this project.  This work will include the production of outreach materials, education, and workshops to promote benefits to potential agrivoltaic adopters in the Rio Grande Valley.

JUA Technologies Develops Solar-Powered Dehydrator 

“JUA Technologies, an agriculture technology start-up that manufactures solar-powered crop dehydrators, has received a two-year, $600,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop its technology.” – PV Magazine 

Italian Research Shows Benefits of Growing Soybeans Using Agrivoltaics

“Scientists from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Italy have investigated different shade depth treatments on soybeans grown under an elevated agrivoltaic system in Monticelli d’Ongina, Italy. ‘Our work confirmed that soybean is shade tolerant and can be grown in combination with solar power generation. Considering not only soy but more crops and extensive crops in a large scale agrivoltaics is useful for increasing the sustainability of the agrivoltaic system itself.’ researcher Eleonora Potenza told PV magazine. – PV Magazine

Meta Obtains 720MW of Solar from Silicon Ranch

“Facebook owner Meta Platforms will power additional data center operations around the Southeast with 720 MW of new solar developments in Georgia and Tennessee with Silicon Ranch. Silicon Ranch is partnering with the Walton Electric Membership Corporation and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to supply power from seven new solar facilities to power Meta’s data centers in the two Southeast states, respectively.” – PV Magazine

Farmers in France are Beginning to Combine Solar Panels and Crops 

“In the Haute-Saône region, in the northeastern part of the country, an experiment is being conducted by solar-energy company TSE. It is hoping to find out whether solar energy can be generated without hindering large-scale cereal crops. Previous attempts to experiment with agrivoltaics have been through smaller-scale projects. But, keen to see if it can thrive on an industrial level, 5,500 solar panels are being spread over this farm in the commune town of Amance by TSE.”  – Euronews 

Solar Grazing Event Helps Kentucky Students Learn about Agrisolar 

“The event was made possible through a partnership between the Kentucky Sheep and Goat Development Office, LG&E/KU, University of Kentucky, Ohio State University, and solar development company Lightsource bp. Students learned about solar technology, seed mix establishment and meeting nutritional needs in solar grazing. Additionally, the release said students were able to tour the LG&E/KU E.W. Brown Generating Station’s solar array in Mercer County.” – The News Enterprise 

Cornell Researcher Hosts EarthTalks Agrisolar Series 

“Niko Kochendoerfer, a postdoctoral fellow in animal sciences at Cornell University, will deliver the talk ‘Effect of sheep stocking rate on ecosystem parameters in ground-mounted solar arrays’ at 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14. The talk, which is free and open to the public, takes place in 112 Walker Building on the University Park campus and via Zoom.”  – PSU