In less than a decade, solar installations are expected to cover more than 3 million acres of the United States, creating a big opportunity to pair solar with agricultural land to produce food, conserve ecosystems, create renewable energy, increase pollinator habitat, and maximize farm revenue.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology, a nonprofit focused on sustainable energy and agriculture solutions, has launched the nation’s first AgriSolar Clearinghouse to connect farmers, ranchers, land managers, solar developers, and researchers with trusted, practical information to increase the co-location of solar and agriculture.

“There are tremendous benefits of pairing solar and agriculture,” NCAT Energy Programs Director Stacie Peterson, PhD said. “As America’s appetite for sustainably grown products and renewable energy continues to increase, agrisolar has the potential to provide both resources. AgriSolar is a win-win.”  

NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse features a library of peer-reviewed information, a media hub featuring videos, podcasts, and relevant news, and a user forum to connect people interested in agrisolar development in real-time.

“The AgriSolar Clearinghouse will present a platform open to all Americans for sharing the nationwide efforts in agricultural integration at solar facilities,” said American Solar Grazing Association Executive Director Lexie Hain. “The exciting thing for us at ASGA is that the AgriSolar Clearinghouse will amplify a thoughtful and trusted approach to expanding America’s efforts in solar and agricultural land use.”

The project’s diverse group of more than 30 partners and stakeholders representing private business, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, national energy laboratories, the Smithsonian, and leading universities will be a key ingredient in supporting the expansion of agrisolar developments across the country.

NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse is funded by a three-year, $2.03 million cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and domestic benefit of solar technologies on the grid.

“NCAT and our partners are well positioned to help solar developers and farmers connect to make the most out of co-locating solar arrays and agricultural land,” NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson said. “For 45 years, NCAT has been a trusted broker of practical information to advance locally-grown and sustainable agriculture and energy solutions.”   

To learn more about the AgriSolar Clearinghouse visit AGRISOLARCLEARINGHOUSE.ORG.

The Associated Press is reporting on the benefits of agrisolar development, that is, the co-location of solar panels on appropriate farm land.

“There’s lots of spaces where solar could be integrated with really innovative uses of land,” said Brendan O’Neill, a University of Michigan environmental scientist who’s monitoring how planting at a new 1,752-panel facility in Cadillac, Michigan, stores carbon.

Elsewhere, solar installations host sheep that reduce need for mowing. And researchers are experimenting with crop growing beneath solar panels, while examining other potential upsides: preventing soil erosion, and conserving and cleansing water.

The Associated Press

As the AP reports, the U.S. Department of Energy is searching for the best agrisolar ideas in a project it has called InSPIRE.

The U.S. has about 2,500 solar operations on the electric grid, most generating one to five megawatts, according to the Energy Information Administration. A five-megawatt facility needs around 40 acres (16 hectares). While some occupy former industrial sites, larger installations often take space once used for row crops.

Depending on how quickly the nation switches to renewable electricity, up to 10 million acres (4 million hectares) could be needed for solar by 2050 — more than the combined area of Massachusetts and New Jersey, an analysis by Argonne found. Solar developers and researchers hope projects with multiple land uses will ease pushback from rural residents who don’t want farmland taken out of production or consider solar panels a blight.

“We need healthy agricultural communities, but we also need renewable energy,” said Jordan Macknick, the renewable energy lab’s lead analyst for InSPIRE.

The Associated Press

Jordan Macknick and others featured in this article including Greg Barron-Gafford, Rob Davis, and Lexie Hain are partners of the AgriSolar Clearinghouse.

Read the full story, here.