This paper highlights and discuss ongoing efforts to couple solar energy production with pollinator conservation, noting recent legal definitions of these practices. It also summarizes key studies from the field of ecology, bee conservation, and the author’s experience working with members of the solar industry. The paper specifically addresses how solar facilities are designed and spread to the public and highlights ongoing efforts to couple solar energy production with preservation of pollinators and their habitat. Other details in this paper focus on native, perennial flowering and their association with the sustainability of beekeeping and bee preservation.
Tag Archive for: AgriSolar
This summary provides a comprehensive overview of bird mortality patterns in utility scale photovoltaic solar. It synthesizes results from fatality monitoring studies at 10 photovoltaic solar facilities across 13 site years in California and Nevada. The report also addresses vegetation that is often removed in regions such as deserts in the southwestern U.S. However, the benefits of site restoration to pollinators and other wildlife have been recently recognized and developers in some regions of the U.S. are moving towards ecologically-based site restoration and low impact site restoration.
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.
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 goal of this study is to assess the environmental impacts of a novel pasture-based agrivoltaic concept: co-farming rabbits and solar PV. Details of the study include a focus on modeled scenarios of emissions use related to rabbit production on agrisolar land. Also included are scenarios on independent solar PV and conventional rabbit production systems and rabbit agrivoltaic systems.
Written by the Center for Rural Affairs, this report reveals the benefits of mixing solar power and native vegetation. Included in this report are details related to habitat for pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies, water and soil quality as well as habitat for game birds like pheasants and quail. The report also includes information on evaluating costs and benefits of agrivoltaic operations and tips for planning for success.
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 Montgomery Sheep Farm in North Carolina might be taking mixed use to another level. Not only is it a working sheep farm, it also offers a bed and breakfast for two-legged guests, breeds dogs, and is now using solar to power the entire operation. A WFAE reporter recently visited the farm and reports the farm’s 20-megawatt solar array has not only provided it with additional income related to clean energy, but keeps workers employed and has reduced costs.
One important solar benefit is a reduction in maintenance costs. The grass under the solar panels no longer needs to be cut, thanks to the sheep who graze under the solar panels on a rotating schedule. This not only reduces costs, but also allows the farm to raise more lambs per acre.
“We can have many more lambs per acre than if you put them on a normal pasture because of the solar panels,” Joel Olsen told WFAE, owner of the Montgomery Sheep Farm.
Olsen says another big benefit is the shade provided by the solar panels. The shade not only provides cool areas for the sheep during hot summer days, but it helps the grass grow thicker which means more food for the sheep. This thick grass is much more suitable for the sheep than grass typically grown in an open field, according to Olsen.
The farm currently operates on 200 acres, raising sheep, chickens, and horses. Roughly 400 sheep are rotated on a weekly basis under the solar panels in 30 designated grazing areas.
“If you can provide farmers additional income related to clean energy, additional income related to grounds maintenance, you know, it allows our rural areas to remain beautiful and have the people living there to remain employed,” Olsen said.
AgriSolar Clearinghouse partner Greg Barron-Gafford, a professor at the University of Arizona, is looking to indigenous knowledge to find solutions to modern agricultural challenges through agrivoltaics. Barron-Gafford is part of a research team that is using an agrisolar approach to find solutions for agricultural challenges like water shortages and direct sunlight on crops in the desert.
Intense, direct sunlight in the desert and water shortages are both issues addressed by the researchers at the Biosphere 2 lab and the Tumamoc Resilience Gardens, in Arizona. Traditional techniques used by the American Indian tribes in the area for more than 5,000 years may offer solutions, and the measures are being tested in these facilities.
Vegetation on site at the Biosphere 2 location will plant crops under solar panels as well as the traditional rock berms and rock piles used by area tribes.
“We’ve had 5,000 years of farmers trying out different strategies for dealing with heat, drought and water scarcity,” Gary Nabhan, an ethnobotanist and agrarian activist working at the Biosphere 2 location in Arizona, explained to the Washington Post.
Pairing solar with appropriate agricultural land may address the issues faced by desert farmers by shading crops from the intense Arizona sunlight, which can provide a cool area for plants to flourish under solar panels. Solar panels, unlike shade trees, don’t need water which means crops don’t have to compete for the scarce resource.
Not relying on irrigation canals to nourish thirsty crops such as leafy greens, nuts, and fruits means there is less of an impact on the immense amount of water that has typically been drawn from aquifers and, in Arizona’s case, the Colorado River.
Not only does an agrivoltaic approach to these challenges mean less impact on water supply, but it allows communities to build energy resilience.
Local farmers in Columbus, Indiana, have partnered with Hoosier Energy to create clean energy by installing solar panels over grazing land on a local sheep farm. Of Hoosier Energy’s 10 solar arrays, this is the first farm to have an array of solar panels on local farmland.
“We’re able to continue to use it as an agricultural value by partnering with a farmer on using sheep to graze the site, so it’s really good because we get … more benefit than just solar. It’s actually an agricultural benefit to the community as well,” said John Cisney, a technical analyst at Hoosier Energy.
The farm and solar partnership is a win-win situation. Sheep continue to graze the land but with the solar panels in place, there is an added benefit of producing clean energy, which benefits the environment. “It’s cleaner. There are no CO2 emissions. It’s sustainable. It’s renewable,” said Curt Durnil, communications director at Hoosier Energy.
These panels are capable of harnessing energy from the sun throughout the day, as they follow the sun from east to west, unlike a typical solar panel on a residential home that operates in a fixed position.
“[W]hat that allows us to do is capture more energy from the sun, up to 15-20% more in a year’s time period than if they were just fixed facing the sun throughout the day,” Cisney said.
To learn more about the Agrisolar farm in Indiana, click here.