Hear the latest from Massachusetts on dual-use solar research and programs, from hay to vegetables to pollinators!

Agrivoltaics/dual-use solar covers an increasingly wide umbrella of types of agriculture as the importance of maintaining farmland with solar sites becomes a greater area of focus. Many of the ideas on what can be grown, raised or grazed next to panels are still in the early experimental stages and need more research and data.

The state of Massachusetts is supporting a variety of research projects on different applications of dual-use solar, ranging from hay to vegetable crops to pollinators and, of course, sheep grazing.

Gerry Palano from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) will join us to talk about a number of those projects and the different forms of dual-use.

Gerry’s talk will also provide a broad overview of MDAR’s SMART program for commercial scale dual-use solar projects and the incentives and tools the state offers. He will dig into the opportunities and challenges surrounding dual-use projects.

About the Speaker

Gerry Palano works on Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Programs for the MA Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). Gerry began working for MDAR in May 2007 as an Alternative Energy Specialist and Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Programs Coordinator and created MDAR’s first energy program to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy implementation on farms through education and technical assistance.

He works with farmers to help them understand and incorporate the various energy efficiency, clean energy technologies and financial incentives for their projects. He created MDAR’s Ag Energy Grant Program and collaboratively helped create the original MA Farm Energy Program (MFEP), currently contracted with the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) for assistance to administer the program. MFEP is a one-stop, day-to-day shopping center of technical and financial assistance for farms across the state to implement energy efficiency and clean energy projects.

Gerry has devoted his career to the energy efficiency/clean energy sector. He has over 40 years of experience as an engineering consultant and energy project developer, including the private commercial, health care and institutional sectors, and most recently in government with agriculture.

How can shepherds and solar companies understand each other’s basic requirements and seal the deal?

Join us to hear about the updated “Solar Grazing Checklist for Shepherds and Solar Sites Mangers” from our friends in Vermont, who designed the checklist to help graziers and site operators understand each other’s positions. The conversation will be led by Alex DePillis from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and Kimberly Hagen, the Grazing Specialist at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at UVM Extension. They’ll go over the checklist, provide examples, and talk about the challenges faced by both graziers and site operators.

Following their short presentation, the second half of the Teatime will be dedicated to a Q&A with solar site operators and shepherds, who will discuss best practices for grazing to manage vegetation in the Northeast.

Hosts: Kevin Richardson (ASGA) , ASGA Outreach Coordinator, and Stacie Peterson from the AgriSolar Clearing House and Energy Program Director at the National Center for Appropriate Technology .

About the Speakers:

Alex DePillis has been developing clean energy projects and policies in public service and in the private sector since 1993. In public service, he has developed renewable energy policies and programs and administered grant programs. At the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, he helps farmers and solar developers develop agrivoltaic projects. He also has a regulatory role in Vermont’s statewide energy-siting process to review solar energy projects for their impact on farmland.

Kimberly Hagen is the Grazing Specialist at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at UVM Extension. Kimberly joined the Center for Sustainable Agriculture in February 2012 to provide technical assistance and support for grass-based farms: for those already immersed in the practices, those planning to transition, and everything in between. Kimberly spent several years working on all kinds of farms around the world, finally returning to Vermont where she has been raising sheep, chickens, horses and the occasional cow, on her own grass-based farm since 1987, and providing agricultural education and outreach for NOFA to communities and schools.

In this Teatime from April 21, 2022, Tom Murphy, the Director of Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research (MCOR), presents Leasing for Community and Grid Scale Solar – Key Consideration While Negotiating.  Tom’s current work is as an educational consultant in transitioning to clean energy including utility and community scale solar.   Teatimes are a series of educational agrivoltaic webinar presentations that are jointly run by The AgriSolar Clearinghouse and the American Solar Grazing Association.

In this webinar from the Indiana Conservation Cropping System Initiative, AgriSolar Clearinghouse partner Greg Barron-Gafford provides an agrivoltaics primer and a discussion of potential for agrivoltaics in climate-smart crop practices. Byron Kominek then describes his successful agrivoltaic farm, Jack’s Solar Garden. Byron describes ongoing studies, farm economics, community development, and education programs at the farm. Stacie Peterson closes the webinar with a description of the agrivoltaic resources available in the AgriSolar Clearinghouse.

Hosted By Cody Smith

Original Post by Center for Rural Affairs on April 27,2020

Cody Smith, policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, hosts this webinar on best management practices for implementing native vegetation on solar project sites in the region with Rob Davis, director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy. 

Discussion includes native seed mix selections for solar sites, management options for site operators and options for communities to require this practical co-use on solar sites. Other topics include planning, total cost of implementation, seeding methods and construction considerations.

“This webinar aims to serve as a resource for community leaders, project developers, utility professionals, and soil and water conservation experts so they can take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity for mutually-beneficial investments in conservation,” Smith said. 

The relationship among plants, soil, insects, and water is complex. This film by Prairie Restorations, Inc. explains the unique opportunity to rebuild America’s prairies and power the country, by co-locating solar arrays with pollinator habitat.

“What better use than to make it into a win-win situation. Now we can generate electricity, but under those solar panels, we can generate pollinator habitat, plant habitat, soil enhancement – it’s just absolutely a no-brainer,” says Prairie Restorations Founder Ron Bowen.

AgriSolar Clearinghouse partner Greg Barron-Gafford highlights the Biosphere 2 work in Agrivoltaics, including the application of biosphere techniques to fine-tune agrivoltaic crop growing.

The project includes citizen science that engages high-school students in a long-term agrivoltaic installation at the University of Rincon High School.

This video was produced by The Good Stuff.

AgriSolar Clearinghouse partner Greg Barron-Gafford describes the mutual benefits of growing crops under solar panels in large-scale solar arrays.

In this video produced by Arizona Public Media, Dr. Gafford explains these benefits through an ecological approach of a salsa garden understory and a solar panel overstory.