Q: What is agrisolar?
A: Agrisolar is combined land use for solar energy and agriculture. It includes grazing livestock under and around solar panels, developing pollinator habitat and apiaries near solar arrays, growing crops under and around solar panels, and powering agricultural operations with solar energy. To learn more about each of these topics, visit our extensive Information Library
Q. What are aquavoltaics?
A. Also known as flotavoltaics, aquavoltaics is a term for placing solar panels on waterways, such as storage ponds, irrigation waterways, and reservoirs. Learn more about aquavoltaics in our Information Library.
Q. What animals can graze under solar panels?
A. Sheep work best for grazing under solar panels, and they can eliminate the need for mowing or vegetation management under the panels. There are new solar racking systems under development that can to accommodate cattle, such as the design by Helical Solar. Poultry and rabbits can also be kept under solar panels.
The American Solar Grazing Association is an excellent resource for best practices, resources, and financial information and there are extensive solar grazing resources in our library.
Q. Is there a way to determine if a pollinator area or apiary could inadvertently be sprayed with pesticides?
A. Yes. Programs such as Drift Watch, a voluntary communication tool that enables crop producers, beekeepers, and pesticide applicators to work together to protect specialty crops and apiaries through use of mapping programs, can help with this.
Q. Are beehives placed directly underneath the solar panels or near the solar panels?
A. Beehives, or apiaries, can be placed directly underneath the solar panels, but it is common to locate the apiary outside the main perimeter fencing of the solar site, particularly when the beekeepers are leasing their hives to the solar operators. In determining a location for the apiary, consider access, security, shade, wind patterns, and potential fencing to protect the hives from predators.
See the Solar Beekeeping Agreement Template for more information.
Q. What crops grow best under solar panels?
A. In general, shade-tolerant, low-height plants that are hand-harvested work best. Examples include strawberries, tomatoes, salad greens, herbs, peppers, and gourds. You can find more information in our library of specialty crops information here.
Q. Can I burn the fields under solar panels?
A. No. You shouldn’t burn under or near solar panels. It could damage the solar equipment and lead to electrical fires, downed power lines, and danger to line workers.
Q. Can I use solar to power the irrigation on my farm?
A. Yes. Solar-powered irrigation is an excellent option, particularly if the irrigation is not near utility service. A solar irrigation system includes solar-powered pumps for the water-distribution system.
Q. Are there alternatives to placing solar on productive farmland?
A. Yes. There are many types of land that can be used for agrisolar development that are not productive farmland. This includes border lands, hedgerows, buffer lands, prairie strips, roadways, fence land, degraded lands, farm building rooftops, and on waterbodies.
American Farmland Trust is working to develop best practices around protecting and conserving farmland while promoting dual-use solar. These guidelines include the design and construction of agrivoltaics that:
- retain or enhance the land’s agricultural productivity, both short term and long term
- are designed, built, maintained, and have provisions for decommissioning to protect the land’s agricultural resources and utility
- support the viability of a farming operation
Additionally, single-use solar developments can be converted to agricultural lands. Examples include incorporating grazing at solar sites, adding apiaries to solar sites, developing pollinator strips and pollinator habitat around solar sites, and reclaiming the land under and around solar panels to include specialty crops, grazing, poultry, and shade spaces for farm workers.