Tag Archive for: News

Farmers Across America Chase Stable Returns 

Farmers are increasingly embracing solar as a buffer against volatile crop prices and rising expenses. Their incomes are heading for a 26% slide this year, the biggest drop since 2006, as cash receipts for corn, soy and sugar cane are expected to drop by double-digit percentages.  

The shift is a big part of the renewables push in the US: The American Farmland Trust estimates that 83% of expected future solar development will take place on agricultural soil.” – bloomberg.com 

Agrisolar Market Forecast to be Worth $10.64 Billion by 2033 

“The Brainy Insights estimates that the USD 2.98 billion Agrivoltaics market will reach USD 10.64 billion by 2033. Increased government initiatives to boost R&D in agrivoltaics is one major factor that may create lucrative opportunities for agrivoltaics devices in the market. Governments across the globe have undergone tremendous initiatives to boost investments and increase subsidies in the market. To achieve net-zero carbon emissions the government across the globe is undergoing a renewable fuel-based economy.” – finance.yahoo.com 

US Farms with Solar Have Tripled Since 2013 

“Solar panels are gaining popularity across U.S. fields. In fact, there are now three times as many farms with solar installations compared to 2012. 

In 2012, a little more than 36,000 U.S. farms had them installed. By 2017, that number had jumped to more than 90,000. In 2022, it shot up to nearly 120,000. 

Successful Farming found some producers were being offered as much as $1,000 per acre to lease land for solar. While crops can net that much, the panels do not require any input costs like seed and fertilizer.” – rfdtv.com 

Serbia’s First Agrisolar Project Developed  

“Agrisolar, an increasingly popular and effective solution for harnessing solar energy, has finally arrived in Serbia. Organic farm Organela in the village of Gornja Bukovica has become home to the country’s first agrisolar power plant.” – balkangreenenergynews.com 

Cornell Researches Solar Farming for Sustainable Agricultural Production 

“Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) established an Agrivoltaics Research Program on Dec. 8, 2023, after Governor Hochul signed a bill to fund their research. 

Henry Williams, a Ph.D. mechanical engineering student at Cornell University, said the research at Cornell University focuses on using the land beneath the solar panels as a place to grow crops.  

‘Cornell pioneered sheep grazing research through the Cascadilla solar farm project that started a few years ago,” Williams said. “Right now, the focus of agrivoltaic research at Cornell is shifting toward crop production and how we can design solar farms to co-locate crops and produce renewable energy.’” – theithican.org 

French Agrisolar Farms find Balance Between Solar and Agriculture 

“In March 2023, the French government passed a law requiring all solar projects on farmlands to provide some sort of service to agriculture: from improving yields to protecting crops from frost or heatwaves. The decree, entitled ‘On Accelerating the Production of Renewable Energies,’hopes to address a rising call to protect agriculture from an increase in the amount of land being used to harvest solar energy rather than crops. 

The bill hopes to build a compromise — aiming to meet the demands from energy companies to install solar panels, without damaging the yield of land used for food production. More laws on the issue are being drafted, including one that specifies the penalty that landowners might face for not meeting productivity targets.” Nature.com 

Argonne Study Shows Insect Populations Tripled in Five Years at Agrisolar Sites

“Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory wanted to understand the ecological value of PV solar energy sites planted with native grasses and wildflowers. They examined how vegetation would establish and how insect communities would respond to the newly established habitat. The five-year field study looked at two solar sites in southern Minnesota operated by Enel Green Power North America. Both sites were built on retired agricultural land.

The two studied solar sites were planted with native grasses and flowering plants in early 2018. From August 2018 through August 2022, the researchers conducted 358 observational surveys for flowering vegetation and insect communities. They evaluated changes in plant and insect abundance and diversity with each visit.” anl.gov

This research study was conducted by AgriSolar Clearinghouse partners as well as Argonne and NREL.

Agrivoltaics Testing on Former Opencast Mine 

“German energy company RWE announced it completed a 3.2 MW agrivoltaic project on a 7-hectare recultivation area on the edge of the Garzweiler opencast mine near Bedburg, a town in the Rhein-Erft-Kreis district of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

The utility said it will test three different agrivoltaic system designs for different crops on both arable and horticultural land at the facility over five years. The aim is to develop suitable management methods and value-adding operating concepts for agrivoltaic systems.” – PV Magazine

New Research Shows Solar Panels Benefit Habitats and Farms

“Argonne researchers have concluded  a five-year study of two agrivoltaic arrays in Minnesota, where the agrivoltiacs movement is particularly strong. They have just published the results of their study in the open access journal Environmental Research Letters.

By the end of the field campaign, the team observed increases for all habitat and biodiversity metrics. There was an increase in native plant species diversity and flower abundance. In addition, the team observed increases in the abundance and diversity of native insect pollinators and agriculturally beneficial insects, which included honeybees, native bees, wasps, hornets, hoverflies, other flies, moths, butterflies and beetles.” – Cleantechnica

Duke’s Florida Solar Farm Now Online 

“Duke Energy is piloting a floating solar farm in Florida – its first – on an existing cooling pond in Polk County.  

The almost 1-megawatt (MW) floating solar array features more than 1,800 solar panels that float on top of two acres of the water’s surface on the pond – which used to be a phosphate mining pit – at the Duke Energy Hines Energy Complex in Bartow, southeast of Lakeland. It provides enough clean electricity to power around 100 local households.” – Electrek 

Vermont Agrivoltaic Project Includes Saffron 

“The foundation for the new agrivoltaic project was laid by saffron expert Arash Ghalehgolabbehbahani of the University of Vermont’s North American Center for Saffron Research and Development, along with researchers Bruce L. Parker and Margaret Skinner. 

The choice of Vermont for this particular project is no accident. Researchers at the University of Vermont have been pitching saffron cultivation as a way to help specialty crop farmers stay in business and preserve cultivated land for future generations. The agrivoltaic program was inspired by the success of a previous saffron cultivation conducted by the school.” Cleantechnica 

Alliant Energy Develops Agrivoltaic Research Project in Iowa 

“A multi-disciplinary team of ISU professors, graduate and undergraduate students is working with Alliant Energy through a public-private partnership to study the potential of agrivoltaics, the simultaneous use of areas of land for both solar panels and agriculture. The team includes horticulturalists, economists, environmentalists, sociologists, engineers and even entomologists. 

The project is the first of its kind. ‘There has been research conducted, but not on a utility scale,’ says Nick Peterson, Strategic Partnerships Manager with Alliant Energy, ‘and not in a public/private partnership with a land grant university.’” – Modernfarmer 

Colorado Governor Announces Agrivoltaic Funding  

“Colorado governor Polis and Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) Commissioner Kate Greenberg awarded $500,000 in grants to seven projects that demonstrate the use and benefits of agrivoltaics, the simultaneous use of land for solar energy production and agriculture. These grants distributed by the Polis administration will provide funding to incorporate innovative technology that supports Colorado’s producers to operate in the face of challenges created by climate change and prepare the next generation.” –  Colorado.gov 

Sarah Bendok Receives Permit to Build Agrisolar Project in Phoenix 

Sarah Bendok has received the permits by the city of Phoenix required to proceed with constructing a 5-KW agrivoltaic system. The project is expected to cost around $20,000 and is financed through donations from community events, presentations and grants. Sarah is the founder of the non-profit Growing Green, where they help local farmers develop, implement and fund sustainable technologies.  

Learn more about Growing Green here

Agrisolar Benefits Farmlands and Local Economies 

“Smaller residential solar arrays, owned by the landowner, can significantly reduce the electricity bills of a farm, often covering the electricity needs of barns, warehouses, equipment, and the household. 

Michigan State University found that a 10 kilowatt (kW) solar system could save the average farm about $1,880 per year. Other farms, like dairy farms, have a more energy intensive operation and the same 10 kW system could save a dairy farm nearly $4,000 per year. Combined with federal incentives and USDA rural energy programs, farms can save even more on upfront costs. 

Lightsource bp’s Elm Branch and Briar Creek solar projects in Texas delivered two new revenue streams to local farmers. The first was in the form of lease payments. The second was a grazing contract for the farmers’ more than 1,000 sheep. These sheep now control the growth of grass on the site and stay cool under the shade of the panels.” – Cleantechnica 

Agrisolar: The Key to a Clean Energy Future 

“Interest in agrivoltaics is growing, along with the need for land for new solar farms, as Minnesota and the nation shift to cleaner energy. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates 10 million acres of solar panels will be needed by 2050 to meet the nation’s net zero-carbon goals. 

US Solar owns the 1-megawatt Big Lake community solar garden and about 80 more in Minnesota. It’s part of a pilot project encouraging farmers to grow crops or graze livestock between and underneath solar arrays.” – MPR News 

Oil Companies Lightsource and Shell Using Agrisolar  

“Today, the U.S. has about five gigawatts of agrivoltaic projects, encompassing more than 35,000 acres across over 30 different states. While this only represents about 3% of the country’s installed solar capacity, it’s a growing industry, and farmers are taking note. 

Lightsource operates a combined 615 megawatts of sheep grazing and solar power projects, around 12% of the nation’s entire agrivoltaic portfolio. The company plans to add an additional 1,058 megawatts worth of projects next year. Shell is also involved in the space through its 44% stake in solar developer Silicon Ranch. The ranch operates 1,300 megawatts of agrivoltaic projects with an additional 900 megawatts planned over the next two years. 

While there are other players in the domestic agrivoltaic market such as Enel Green Power and US Solar, Lightsource and Silicon Ranch remain the largest players in the space. American oil majors such as Chevron and Exxon haven’t invested in agrivoltaics.” – CNBC 

ENEL and ENEA Develop Microalgae Agrisolar System  

“ENEA and Enel have developed an ‘algovoltaic’ system to cultivate high-value microalgae, ranging from €100 ($106.19)/kg to €600/kg for pharmaceutical uses or cosmetic purposes. This is possible due to the integration of a fully automated cultivation system with a 7-kW solar array. 

The system allows the cultivation of microalgae with a high commercial value, from €100/kg to €600/kg for pharmaceutical or cosmetic use, through a fully automated cultivation system integrated with the solar array.” – PV Magazine 

Iowa State University Develops Agrisolar Project to Study Land Use 
 
“Iowa State University (ISU) is embarking on a research project to explore the combination of crops and solar power. The Alliant Solar Farm at Iowa State University is a groundbreaking agrivoltaics research project merging solar power generation and agriculture to study how best to optimize land use while providing local community benefits. The array was inaugurated on Thursday, October 19th with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.” – prnewswire 

New Chinese Agrisolar Design Accommodates Farming Equipment 

“Researchers in China have built a 10 kW spectral-splitting concentrator agrivoltaic system that accommodates small farming equipment below it. The installation relies on 128 concentrator modules integrating each an ultra-white and toughened concentrating curved glass (CCG), a multilayer polymer film (MPF) and 23%-efficient interdigitated-back contact (IBC) crystalline silicon solar cells provided by Sunpower.” – PV Magazine 

USDA Joins Great Plains Institute and Big River Farms in Minnesota Agrisolar Project 

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) joined Great Plains Institute (GPI) and Big River Farms announced GPI and Big River Farms’ ‘Solar Farmland Access for Emerging Farmers’ demonstration projects alongside project partners Connexus Energy and US Solar. As the country and Minnesota both take steps to convert our energy supply to be derived from carbon-free sources, this pilot project is setting out to solve for how solar energy development can be increased while also preserving agricultural land for the people who grow the state and nation’s food.  

Funded by the Mortenson Family Foundation and with additional support from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and Argonne National Lab, these agrivoltaics projects aim to demonstrate safe and scalable operational practices for electric cooperatives and solar site owners to provide farmland access for emerging farmers inside the fence of solar facilities.” – Globenewswire.com 

AgriSolar Clearinghouse’s Follow the Sun Tour Visits Oregon 

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse’s Follow the Sun Tour visited the North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, Oregon, on September 18, 2023. The research center hosts an agrivoltaic project, where the University of Oregon studies combining crops and solar energy on the same parcel of land. Event attendees participated in a tour of the agrivoltaic site, guided by lead researcher Dr. Chad Higgins. After the tour, everyone enjoyed a lunch and round-table discussion in the conference room of the facility.  

The research conducted at the facility includes showing that solar arrays could be used as resources for plant productivity and that solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency. Attendees discussed details related to these studies during the tour, which also included financial questions and scalability. 

Blue Wave in MA Secures $91 Million for Agrisolar Development 

“Northeast U.S. solar developer and operator BlueWave received $91 million in financing, which the company says will allow it to achieve long-term ownership and management of its portfolio of projects. 

The financing will go toward the construction of five projects featuring dual-use solar development attributes, called agrivoltaics, in Massachusetts. These projects are “strategically implemented to benefit all parties impacted by the projects,” including landowners, farmers and the surrounding community, according to BlueWave. The financing includes a $64 million debt raise with KeyBank, and $27 million tax equity raise with U.S. Bancorp Impact Finance.”– PV Magazine  

Wisconsin Bill Introduces the Protecting Future Farmland Act 

“U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Protecting Future Farmland Act, new legislation to support farmers’ land stewardship efforts as many choose to deploy solar energy on their land. The legislation will ensure that federal investment in rural energy projects prioritizes both land stewardship and responsible deployment of renewable energy to protect America’s farmlands for future cultivation.” Senate.gov 

$500 Million Solar Grazing Site to be Constructed in Wyoming 

“A proposed solar farm near Glenrock will cover 4,738 acres on land bordering the North Platte River, the equivalent of more than 3,500 football fields. When online, it will provide 500 megawatts of solar power and include two battery storage facilities. And there will still be room for the land to support a sheep-grazing operation after construction. 

The $500 million project is scheduled to begin construction in March 2024, and if all goes as planned, will come online in July 2026. The project will be built entirely on private land, and Willox said the developer and landowner have agreed to allow sheep grazing underneath the panels.” – cowboystatedaily 

French Study Shows Benefits of Agrisolar in Water Resource Management 

“France’s Sun’Agri has revealed the results of a test showing how agrivoltaic installations effectively lower temperature and relative humidity during periods of drought. Amidst an ongoing heatwave in southern France, Sun’Agri, a French agrivoltaics specialist, has released its latest findings on the impacts of its technology on water resource management. 

The company conducted an analysis on the effects of solar panels on apple, cherry, and nectarine trees across three sites in La Pugère, Etoile sur Rhône, and Loriol, southern France. The study demonstrated that the PV installations reduced temperature and increased relative humidity for the crops underneath the panels during hot weather, compared to reference areas without protection.” – PV Magazine  

New Bill Shows Bipartisan Support for Agrisolar Development 

“The latest demonstration of bipartisan support for agrivoltaics comes from the offices of US Senators Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Mike Braun of Indiana. They introduced the new Agrivoltaics Research and Demonstration Act of 2023 in the Senate on May 31. 

This bill will research agrivoltaics — solar panel systems that can be deployed over crops that can benefit from partial shading during the day — and how they can help farmers get more out of their fields.” – Cleantechnica 

Things to Consider Before Signing a Solar Lease

“Part one of a three-part series on solar leases and considerations for lawyers and landowners. This is based on a presentation by Rusty Rumley, senior staff attorney, National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The presentation was delivered at the tenth annual Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference in Memphis, Tenn.” – Farmprogress.com 

Pennsylvania Group Pitches Farms on Solar Models

“Solar development on farmland is happening across central Pennsylvania — in some cases generating opposition from people who don’t like the look of solar panels and object to the loss of open land.

Pasa Sustainable Agriculture is working to introduce farmers to a different way of building solar farms that allows farming to continue and creates a smaller footprint. They hope it’s a way to address concerns in communities that have objected to large-scale solar. The model is called agrivoltaics, and it uses raised panels to generate solar energy while farming or livestock grazing continues beneath.” – stateimpact.npr.org

Australian Agrivoltaic Project Development Set to Move Forward

A “farmer-led” utility-scale solar PV and battery storage agrivoltaics project in New South Wales, Australia, has been granted development consent.

The state’s government has decided to grant consent to the development application for Blind Creek Solar Farm. The project was originated by a group of farmers and is now being developed by Octopus Australia and the national Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) together with its founders.” – energystorage.com

A Second Amendment Amendment

“California may be a national leader in both solar energy and agriculture, but it’s lagging behind other states in combining the two. Putting solar panels directly on active farmland is supported by the Biden administration, which provided $8 million for projects last year. The Midwest and Southeast lead the country in the number of what are also known as agrisolar projects.

Early research suggests agrivoltaics can not only help produce renewable electricity, but also improve crop yields. “Sounds almost too good to be true,” California Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross quipped today during a panel on the practice held by the California Council on Science and Technology. In California, growers are more used to fighting utility-scale solar developers eyeing their land.

Ross highlighted a proposal by state Sen. Steve Padilla (D-San Diego), SB 688, that would set up a grant program at the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission for agrivoltaics research projects. The bill does not appropriate any funding.” – Politico.com

OCS Releases Guidance on Community Solar and LIHEAP for Grant Recipients 

“The purpose of this grant recipient information is to: 1) confirm that LIHEAP funds can be used for solar energy use through new and existing electric payment mechanisms, such as community solar subscription fees; and 2) provide LIHEAP grant recipients with recommendations to consider when utilizing LIHEAP funds for community solar subscriptions.” – acf.hhs.gov 

Benefits of community solar include cost savings, access to clean energy, support for local communities, and flexibility in subscription options. 

Solar Grazing Benefits Sheep Herders with Revenue Opportunities 

“The US solar industry has been growing rapidly: The country is expected to break solar construction records this year by adding more than 32 gigawatts of capacity, according to a Bloomberg NEF outlook. That’s enough to power more than 25 million homes. At the same time, there are concerns there won’t be enough cropland to feed a growing world population, especially if acreage is covered by buildings, roads or photovoltaic installations instead. 

The American Solar Grazing Association, founded in 2018, estimates about 5,000 sheep are currently maintaining US solar sites. ‘The sheep do a better job supporting the biodiversity than a conventional mower,’ said Jay Smith, Director of Asset Management at Standard Solar. In some instances, sheep are better suited to maneuver around solar panels than conventional mowers and help reduce carbon emissions. 

The practice [Agrisolar] is giving sheep herders a lifeline, introducing a new revenue stream after a decades-long decline for the US lamb industry. The number of sheep slaughtered in the US has been averaging over 2 million head in recent years, compared to more than 9 million in the early 1970s, according to Department of Agriculture data.” – Bloomberg.com  

German Agrisolar Project Uses Solar to Benefit Hop Growth 

“Germany’s Agri Energie has commissioned an agrivoltaic project in Hallertau, near Munich, in the German state of Bavaria. The €1.5 million ($1.64 million) project combines solar generation with hop growth. 

The company installed the PV system on steel masts, providing protection to hop plants from sunlight and hail, while also reducing evaporation. In addition, the system serves as support for the hop plants.” – PV Magazine 

U.S. Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill that Supports Agrivoltaics Research 

“U.S. senators on both sides of the aisle have recently proposed two bills to boost agrivoltaics, the double-duty climate solution that pairs solar panels (photovoltaics) with agriculture — or closely related land uses that benefit farmers and ecosystems. 

In May, senators Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) introduced the Pollinator Power Act. Its passage would direct the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to prioritize solar projects funded by the Rural Energy for America Program that create habitat for pollinators underneath the panels. Pollinators such as bees, butterflies and beetles are responsible for pollinating three-quarters of flowering plants and 35 percent of food crops, but populations are in striking decline, in major part because of habitat loss. 

On the heels of the pollinator bill, senators Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and Mike Braun (R-Indiana) worked across the aisle to jointly propose legislation that could catalyze the growth of agrivoltaics in the U.S.: the Agrivoltaics Research and Demonstration Act. If made law, the act would invest $15 million per year from 2024 to 2028 — $75 million total — toward agrivoltaics research and demonstration projects.” – Canary Media 

“”Agrivoltaic systems within the legislation apply to lands where agricultural activities and solar energy production are simultaneously taking place. The USDA’s National Institutes of Food and Agriculture would work closely with the Department of Energy to establish a network of demonstration sites nationwide through the legislation. Agrivoltaic advocates note that the practice can increase farm profits through the reduction in energy use or selling of energy generated on-farm. Other supporters of the legislation include American Farmland Trust (AFT) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.” – AgNet West 

Danish Agrisolar Project will Utilize Sheep Grazing 

Danish renewable energy company Eurowind Energy is developing an agrivoltaic project in Romania, a 70 MW photovoltaic park that will combine solar energy with agriculture. The solar park will span 80 hectares, with 119,184 modules, while its projected annual electricity output is about 102 GWh, enough to supply some 30,000 households. 

At the same time, 130 farmers will be able to use the 80-hectare land for their animals to graze, according to media reports, which cited a press release from Eurowind Energy. 

Recently, works were launched on Croatia’s first agrisolar power plant, in a project that will involve sheep farming. Earlier this year, Hungary-based BSD Invest Europe said it was planning to install a solar park with on the Serbian-Montenegrin border, which would simultaneously be used for sheep farming and growing berries.” – Balkan Green Energy News 

Ohio Agrisolar Project Funded by State Agency 

“The Madison Fields project is being developed by Savion Energy of Kansas City, Missouri, and is expected to be completed in December 2023 and plans to operate for at least 30 years. The company is working with Ohio State University’s Extension Service on pairing agriculture with solar. 

The 180-MW solar facility is expected to generate the equivalent power for up to approximately 35,000 households. The project creates two full-time permanent jobs and 596 full-time temporary positions during the construction phase.  

The company has received community support for the project including from the Board of Commissioners of Madison County, the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District, Pike Township and Fairbanks Local School District.” – Solar Power World