Trials Reveal benefits of Utilizing Agrivoltaic Systems

Research trials conducted by a collaboration between the University of Sheffield, World Agroforestry and the Latia Agripreneurship Institute have shown that agrivoltaic practices result in larger crops and reduced water loss, according to a recent report by The Guardian. The report explains that solar panels located above the crops can aid people with limited land resources by doubling the land’s output through cultivating food and generating power at the same time.

The “Mother of All” Agrivoltaic Projects Moves Forward in California

A report by Clean Technica has announced that the “Mother of All” agrivoltaic projects, Project Nexus, is scheduled to begin in California. The project includes constructing solar canopies over irrigation canals, which will highlight benefits of the symbiotic relationship between energy and water management. According to the report, the project could save 63 billion gallons of water per year, enough water to meet the irrigation demands of 50,000 acres of agricultural land.

Winners of Iberdrola Energy Contest Announced

Iberdrola, an energy company located in Spain, has announced the winners of its international Perseo startup program contest. The winners are the France-based companies Itk and Ombrea, Italian software company Techedge, and EcoEnergias del Guadiana, according to PV Magazine’s recent news release. The contest aimed to identify innovative approaches to combining agriculture, horticulture, livestock, fish-farming, and beekeeping with solar PV operations, according to the news release.

Connecticut’s Greenskies Solar Facilities Approved to Expand Agrivoltaics Operations

Two of Connecticut’s Greenskies Clean Energy solar facilities have been approved by the Connecticut Siting Council to move forward with expanding their agrivoltaic practices, according to a news report by PV Magazine. The solar farms are in East Windsor, CT and Orange, CT. The East Windsor farm will begin grazing sheep under solar panels, and the farm in Orange will grow organic vegetables between row of the solar modules.

French President Identifies Solar as Solution to Reach Energy Goals

French president Emmanuel Macron recently identified solar and agrivoltaics as a solution to reach France’s energy goals by 2050, according to PV Magazine. France aims to produce 100GW by 2050 and identifies agrivoltaics as one of the “three pillars” of solar development in the country. The goal of producing 100GW by 2050 means roughly 5 GW of annual installations need to be completed.

Greenbacker Capital Invests in Solar Development

Greenbacker Capital has announced that it will be investing in a California-based solar developer, Noria Energy, according to a recent report. The investment will assist Noria in scaling solar projects that are both ground-mounted and floating solar arrays, known as floatovoltaics. Noria hosts solar operations in both Latin America and the United States.

Solar Powered Canals to be Tested in California

Project Nexus was recently approved by California’s Turlock Irrigation District to move forward with constructing the nation’s first solar panels over water canals. This project will assist California in reaching the state’s decarbonization goals by 2030. The project is based on research conducted by a University of California graduate student and commissioned by the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, UC Water, and Solar Aquagrid, according to a recent UC Merced article

Solar-Powered Oyster Barge Sets Sail in Chesapeake Bay

A solar-powered oyster barge is now operating in Chesapeake Bay to assist in the restoration of Chesapeake Bay’s aquaculture. The barge will grow oysters that will be used for filtering water in other areas of the bay. The new barge features 12 solar panels that generate roughly 24 kilowatt-hours of energy each day, according to this report. Solar Oysters, the partnership between Maritime Applied Physics Corporation (MAPS) and the Ecologix Group, Inc. that made the solar barge possible, plans to develop more barges in the future that will grow oysters fit for consumption.

Eden Renewables, a New York solar developer, is taking action to support local agriculture by developing eight new pollinator-friendly solar farms in Schodack, Schaghticoke, Glen, and Claverack. Construction is expected to be completed around July 2022.

The solar farms will be a huge benefit to pollinators. More than 35 million native grasses and wildflowers, all pollinator-friendly, will be used as ground cover for each 35-acre site. This amounts to a total of 280 acres being used for biodiversity and ecological enhancement, according to a Eden Renewables press release.

Eden’s community solar farms are a great example of how land can be used for multiple purposes – generating clean power, providing wildlife habitats, pollinator services, and producing food with sheep grazing and beehives making honey. Soon there should be butterflies fluttering, birds singing and bees buzzing around newly planted photovoltaic panels, helping local people to save money on their energy bills,” said Giovanni Maruca, Eden’s Chief Development Officer, according to Eden Renewables.

Each of the solar farms will generate 7.5 MW, enough energy to power around 1,225 homes. In total, the eight farms will generate 60 MW of clean energy, powering some 9,800 households.

Eden Renewables develops solar energy and storage projects in the United States, the UK, Africa, with a focus on continuing agricultural use, biodiversity, ecological enhancement, and community and educational benefits.

Learn more about this project and Eden Renewables here.

A new project funded by Cornell University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will explore the economic benefits of grazing sheep under industrial-scale solar arrays in New York, according to a report by The River. The three-year, $500,000 project will focus on the economic opportunities for a farmer-owned business cooperative that grazes sheep under industrial-scale solar panels. The idea for the project came to life in 2019, when Caleb Scott, a New York farmer, and Todd Schmidt, a professor at Cornell University, discussed the benefits and possibilities of organizing a co-op between solar developers and sheep farmers.

The group of farm and energy advocates developing this project are working to prove the power of agrivoltaics by getting more sheep grazing under solar panels in the Northwest. Agrivoltaics is a growing field combining farm production and renewable energy, benefitting both of these industries, as well as local ecosystems and communities.

“There’s very aggressive renewable energy goals by the state, of which they’re trying to do a lot with solar. This is a real opportunity for growth in a relatively small agricultural production sector in the state,” said Schmidt.

According to the report, New York’s 2019 climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, set an ambitious energy goal of a zero-emissions electrical grid by the year 2040.

For more information on the project, click here.

DOE Announces Initiatives to Increase Community Solar Deployment

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) made announcements during the National Solar Partnership Summit (NCSP) addressing new initiatives that will unlock barriers related to the deployment of community solar. These initiatives will assist the NCSP in reaching one of their goals of creating $1 billion in energy savings by 2025. Another goal by the NCSP is to “enable community solar to power the equivalent of 5 million households,” according to a recent report by DOE.

Supercomputer to be Used on USDA-Backed Agrivoltaics Project

An agrivoltaic project at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) is being funded at $10 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over the next four years. Researchers will study agrivoltaic operations in three states: Arizona, Colorado and Illinois. The study aims to address the tension between crop yields and energy production that arises when the two compete for the same land resources. Read more about the project here.

Solar Parks Could Boost Ground-Nesting Bumble Bee Populations

A recent study on solar park management methods in the UK shows that solar parks managed as meadows instead of turf grass are highly beneficial for populations of ground-nesting bumble bees. Solar management scenarios were studied by researchers at Lancaster University and found that solar parks managed as meadows offer the most resources to bumble bees, allowing four times the population capacity as solar parks managed as turf grass. To learn more about the research, click here.

Recent research conducted on a Minnesota agrisolar operation showed that grazing sheep at ground-mounted solar projects improves the health and quality of the soil and  that consecutive annual grazing treatments to land under solar panels realized more benefits than  intermittently grazed land.

The MNL Conservation Grazing Program’s flock of sheep has been grazing under the solar panels of Enel’s 150 MWdc Aurora Solar operation since 2017. The research studied the impacts of sheep grazing on six separate solar PV sites compared to undisturbed control sites.

Soil samples taken in 2020 from six locations were compared to soil samples taken in 2021, revealing a variety of benefits in soil health related to micro and macro nutrients and soil grain size distribution. Managed sheep grazing significantly increased the total carbon storage (10 to 80%) and available nutrients of the soil.

MNL’s solar grazing manger stated that,” More solar means more opportunities for new farmers to get started in the industry. We consult with solar projects throughout the Midwest and the concept of grazing sheep on a solar projects opens the door for new shepherds who may lack easy access to grazing land to get started,” according to a media report by Solar Power World.

The research was made possible through the partnership of MNL, Enel Energy, Temple University, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which also highlighted other potential benefits aside from things like macro and micronutrients in the soil, such as water quality, stormwater control, and healthy pollinator habitat.

Read more about the research here.

Sunnyside neighborhood in Houston, Texas, has been approved to develop the Sunnyside Solar Project, a 50-MW solar operation that will be built on a former landfill abandoned for 50 years. The project, set to be completed by the end of 2022, will be the largest urban solar project in the country, covering a total of 240 acres. Plans are also in place to include sheep grazing under the solar panels once the project is completed.  

According to a media report by PV Magazine, the mayor’s office expects that a community solar installation will be part of the project, but exactly how much is not yet defined.

The project is being developed by Sunnyside Energy LLC. The company will train and employ local workers for the project’s construction, as well as provide discounts to low-income residents in the Sunnyside neighborhood as part of its agreement with the city of Houston, according to the media report.

The project will also be the largest brownfield solar installation in the United States. A brownfield installation means the project has been developed on previously contaminated land. Transforming an abandoned landfill into a productive and clean energy farm demonstrates how degraded lands can be used to address land-use and energy issues. For more information on the Sunnyside Solar Project, read the original article on PV Magazine’s website.

As a supporting organization of EUCI’s upcoming Solar Agrivoltaics Essentials event, March 23-24, the National Center for Appropriate Technology is pleased to extend a 10% discount off the registration price to you and your colleagues.

The widespread adoption and development of solar across a nearly full range of landscapes, topographies and geographies has triggered multiple “dual use” innovations. Among the most promising of these is agrivoltaics: the co-location of solar with natural resource practices broadly characterized as agriculture.

Attendees will gain practical skills and insights on how to:

  • Review the research, pilot projects and best practices that best inform those considering agrivoltaic projects
  • Identify the Ag practices that can be co-located with solar project development, as well as their potential outcomes
  • Estimate cost vs benefits (LCOE) co-locating agricultural practices with solar projects
  • Examine case studies of agrivoltaics projects from the perspective of project sponsors, developers, lenders, EPCs and OEM suppliers

Use discount code AGR0322NCAT at registration to receive 10% off the standard registration rate.

Please visit the EUCI website for more information!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the launch of the Rural Energy Pilot Program, which will make $10 million available to rural communities to help develop renewable energy projects, according to a press release from the agency.  

Applicants may submit a letter of intent on or before April 19, 2022, and submit a completed application no later than July 18, 2022. 

According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, “under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is providing grant assistance for people who live in particularly undeserved rural towns to help them cut their household energy costs and address climate change at the local level. As we continue to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, USDA is targeting resources and investments to help meet our nation’s energy needs and combat climate change.”  

Up to 20% of the funding may be used for technical assistance, energy efficiency and weatherization, capacity building and community energy planning. Also, priority points are given to projects that directly advance the key priorities of the presidential administration.  

A guide to submitting a letter of intent, as well as other details of the application process, provided by the USDA, can be found here

For more information, visit the USDA Rural Energy Pilot Program webpage. 

This workshop was held on Monday, January 10, 2022 and was hosted by the USDA-DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). The presenters included Garrett Nilsen and Michele Boyd from the DOE-SETO Office, William Hohenstein from the USDA Office of Energy and Environmental Policy, Jordan Macnick from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Greg Barron-Gafford from the University of Arizona, and Madhu Khanna from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Topics included the DOE’s funding missions in agrivoltaics, the DOE’s agrivoltaic strategies, opportunities, and future work, an overview of several projects including the AgriSolar Clearinghouse, the InSPIRE project, the SCAPES Project, UMass Amherst Dual-Use research, Bluewave Projects, and Jack’s Solar Garden. Agrivoltaic insights were given by ASGA, Connexus Energy, Silicon Valley Ranch, University of Illinois, to name a few! Please check out the workshop slide below to learn more about the opportunities in agrivoltaics!