Tag Archive for: Solar Grazing

Indart sheep grazing around solar panels.

Located in Kings County, the Slate Solar PV Park produces power for hundreds of thousands of California citizens, while simultaneously providing food and shade for its resident sheep herd. The 390-megawatt site, owned by MN8 Solar and operated by Canadian Solar, rests on 2,120 acres and consists of almost 951,000 bifacial solar panels. Rather than relying solely on mowing, the operators count on Ryan Indart and his company Indart Solar Sheep Grazing to provide anywhere from 1,150 to 2,000 sheep to keep most of the site’s vegetation under control.

Ryan credits his solid relationships with his clients for the opportunity to graze at the site. The Slate facility is adjacent to another PV park, known as Mustang 2, where Ryan’s sheep were already grazing during Slate’s construction phase. He reached out to his contacts at Mustang 2 to see if anyone had connections at Canadian Solar and was given the number of the asset manager for Slate. One phone call and a positive reputation amongst the solar operators in his area later, Ryan signed a three-year contract to graze his sheep as part of Slate’s vegetation management plan.

Today, Ryan says he believes both Canadian Solar and MN8 Solar are happy with the partnership. Grazing animals can help lower the operations and management costs at a solar site, which is a high priority for the businesses involved. Although Slate does mow some sections of the facility as needed, the Indart sheep significantly reduce the area that needs mowing, all while finding respite from the hot California sun underneath the panels.

Photo by NCAT

Indart sheep between rows of solar panels.

As the average age of the American farmer continues to rise, the question of how to transition an agricultural operation to the next generation is a concern for current farmers. Can agrisolar offer a solution to help keep multi-generational farms and ranching operations profitable and in family hands? For Ryan Indart and his family in Clovis, California, solar grazing has given them the opportunity to not only keep their sheep operation up and running, but also to expand the business to include multiple partners and grazing sites across state lines.

The Indarts have been ranching and farming in California for generations. Ryan’s grandfather first introduced the family to ranching when he purchased 1,000 sheep in 1937, later selling the wool to the U.S. government to clothe American soldiers in World War II. His parents bought the operation in 1970 and ran the business for nearly 40 years before it was his turn to carry on the family legacy. However, his parents didn’t simply hand over the operation, and Ryan worked tirelessly to reach his goal of taking over the business.

Although he had moved away from his family land after college, Ryan always loved the sheep and wanted to return to raising them eventually. He knew he needed to earn enough money to either purchase his family’s operation or start one of his own. After earning his MBA from Notre Dame in 2002, he worked in commercial real estate for several years before he and his wife Beatriz moved back to Frenso County and purchased all aspects of the family business, from equipment to the sheep themselves.

The early years were far from stress-free, however. Like many farming families in America today, the Indarts struggled to turn a profit year after year. In addition to raising sheep for wool and lamb, they did tractor work and dry farmed a variety of crops, but none of their hard work reliably produced a consistent profit. Rising wages and the increased cost of living in California led them to seriously consider moving out of the area Ryan’s family has called home for generations. Thankfully, a single phone call set the family on a new course and opened the door for the creation of Indart Solar Sheep Grazing.

In 2018, Ryan received a call from a solar developer with a 1,600-acre solar facility in western Fresno County. Large solar systems were just beginning to pepper the Central California landscape, and the developer was looking for a local sheep grazier to help manage vegetation at the site. They reached out to the California Wool Growers Association, where Ryan was serving as President, and were directed to the Indarts’ operation. When the developer offered to compensate the family for their grazing services, Ryan thought “This could be a gamechanger.” He signed his first solar grazing contract just a few short months later and spent the rest of 2018 and 2019 expanding Indart Solar Sheep Grazing.

Comparison of land grazed (right) versus not grazed by Indart sheep at the Slate Solar Facility in Kings County, California.

Today, Indart Solar Sheep Grazing includes multiple grazing partners that share the Indarts’ high degree of professionalism, and Ryan takes a lot of pride in setting a value standard for the solar grazing industry. “We run an organized business. Whenever there’s a problem we’re always there to help solve it,” he says. Including partnerships, Indart Solar Sheep Grazing has over 10,000 sheep grazing over 15,000 acres from northern California to Arizona. 

Ryan is a wealth of knowledge but has one particular piece of advice for established farmers considering venturing into solar grazing: get comfortable with being uncomfortable. After his first contract in 2018, he regularly cold called solar companies whose facilities he saw in the area, offering them his services as an experienced grazier. “You’ve got to be willing to challenge your fears. Try something new. Make a phone call,” he says. “The worst thing that can happen is they say no.” He emphasizes that farmers must be willing to try new things and adapt to the current state of agriculture in the United States. “That’s what’s made us successful.”

Ryan Indart discussing solar grazing during the Central California Follow the Sun Tour with the AgriSolar Clearinghouse.

For new farmers trying to break into the agricultural industry, Ryan believes the barriers of entry to solar grazing are fewer than those encountered in traditional farming scenarios. Land access is a common hurdle for first generation farmers, but solar grazing provides immediate access to acres of land, often with quality forage for grazing animals. Contracts with site owners also mean farmers are making money throughout the year, rather than just during lambing season. “You have instant access to revenue,” Ryan says.

Looking to the future, the Indarts plan to continue expanding their business. With just over 3,500 sheep in their personal flock, the family’s goal is to reach about 5,000 animals total. Ryan says they may be more strategic about what clients they take on as well, and subcontract with other sheep graziers who share their business values as they reach the limit of where they can graze themselves. “It’s a huge blessing to be able to stay in business in California,” Ryan says. “But I couldn’t do this without a support system.”

When speaking about his company’s success, Ryan credits his family and team members that have been with him for years. Many of the team members are originally from Peru, and employment with the Indarts’ business has provided them with the opportunity to send their children to school or buy a home for their family. “I’m very grateful I can provide jobs for these guys, and help them better their lives,” Ryan says. “That’s what makes me happy.”

Finally, Ryan states that it’s wonderful to be a part of the renewable energy movement but emphasizes that “We’ve been doing this for generations.” With proper grazing techniques, graziers have helped improve plant diversity and soil health for years before solar grazing entered the scene. Ryan says he’s proud to continue what his grandfather started, and thankful for the chance to create jobs and opportunities for his employees that have become a part of his family.

All photos by NCAT.

500MW of Community Solar to be Deployed by Community Solar Collective 

“Aggreko Energy Transition Solutions (ETS), a business unit of Scottish modular power equipment distributor Aggreko Ltd., announced it would become the capital partner to the Farmers Powering Communities (FPC) platform, a farmland community solar development collective. With preservation and non-profit groups Edelen Renewables, the American Farmland Trust and community solar aggregator Arcadia, the FPC platform is focused on building out 500 MW of community solar projects over the next decade sited on rural farmland.  

The farming community solar program will advance projects of 25 to 50 acres to provide green energy to the many residents who don’t have access to rooftop solar or a local clean energy source. These could be low- to middle-income residents who may not be able to afford solar, people who rent and don’t own their roof, or people whose homes are not situated to take advantage of the sun’s energy.” – PV Magazine 

Jack’s Solar Garden Hosts Agrivoltaic Bill Signing  

Colorado governor Jared Polis recently signed Colorado Senate Bill 092. The bill signing was attended by Senator Chris Hansen; Representative Karen McCormick, DVM; and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg. The signing  was hosted at Jack’s Solar Garden, an agrisolar operation in Boulder County, Colorado, and one of the largest agrivoltaic operations in the country. 

“In support of the use of agrivoltaics, which is the integration of solar energy generation facilities with agricultural activities, section 2 of the bill authorizes the agricultural drought and climate resilience office to award grants for new or ongoing demonstration or research projects that demonstrate or study the use of agrivoltaics.” – colorado.gov 

Oregon State University Shows Benefits of Agrivoltaics  

“On a small research farm outside of Wilsonville, Chad Higgins feels like he’s watching the future of farming and energy production unfold. Higgins, a biological and environmental engineering professor at Oregon State University, oversees one of the largest experiments in agrivoltaics in the world.   

Using agrivoltaic systems, Higgins has grown tomatoes with bigger yields and dry beans with higher protein content. He’s raised sheep in pastures under solar panels and, though the sheep don’t grow any faster, he’s able to graze more of them per acre because the grass grows more quickly. He’s also found that, because the plants cool the environment around them, the solar panels don’t run as hot and produce energy more efficiently.” - KGW 

US Agriculture Industry Demonstrates Ability to Embrace New Technologies and Practices

“The rising tide of opposition to large-scale solar farms has been impacting the US solar industry, but over the long run, PV stakeholders have the butterflies on their side. Solar developers are eager to pitch their projects as pollinator habitats that replace cultivated crops and neglected land with native plants, benefiting the property owner and nearby farms. The pollinator angle helps to undercut complaints that solar arrays are an inappropriate use of farmland, and it supports the case for farmers to adopt new technologies that benefit their industry.

Minnesota has become the epicenter of the solar-plus-pollinator trend, with local electric cooperative Connexus Energy leading the way. That’s no accident. A 2016 state law set up Minnesota’s Habitat Friendly Solar program, which incentivizes property owners and solar developers to claim benefits for gamebirds as well as songbirds and pollinating insects.” – Cleantechnica

Agrisolar Can Lower Food Costs, Reduce Emissions, and Improve Farming

“The agricultural industries in Europe, Asia and the United States have been aggressively expanding their agrivoltaic farms with wide public support. In Europe, solar panels are put over different types of crops, including fruit trees. Meanwhile, in China, agrivoltaics is used to reverse desertification which is literally using solar panels to green former deserts.

The life cycle analysis of agrivoltaics, which assesses its impact from its conception to use, found that these solar-covered farms emit 69.3 per cent less greenhouse gases and demand 82.9 per cent less fossil energy compared to separate food farms and solar farms-based production.” – Morning Ag Clips

Dominion Energy Lambscaping on Solar Sites  

“As part of Dominion’s solar grazing program, sheep clean up more than 40 acres a day across five of their solar farms. ‘We are trying to get creative and innovative in ways in vegetation management,’ said Dominion Energy spokesperson Tim Eberly. It’s more environmentally friendly, too, because it saves emissions generated by lawn mowing equipment.  

The digested grass and manure also help improve water filtration from rain, which provides a cooling aspect for more than 80,000 solar panels, which, in turn, also makes them more efficient.” – WTKR 

Kentucky Farm Uses Sheep to Graze Solar Site 

“Since 2020, Shetland and Katadin sheep have been roaming and eating grass on the 50-acre solar facility in Harrodsburg, southeast of Lexington. What started out as 25 sheep in the flock has grown to 200 sheep. 

‘By using sheep rather than lawnmowers, what we‘re doing here is both more environmentally friendly and helps manage expenses by keeping maintenance costs down. We also hope our unique approach can be a model for other utilities and their solar initiatives.’ Aron Patrick, director of Research and Development at LG&E and KU parent company PPL Corporation, said in a news release Wednesday.” – WDRB 

Hexagon Energy Plans to Develop Pollinator Habitat on Solar Site  

“Charlottesville-based Hexagon Energy hopes to install solar panels on 650 acres near Scottsville. After 80 years of tree farming, the land there is exhausted, so Hexagon’s Scott Remer says the company will cultivate native grasses and flowers to restore the soil. 

‘It’s about 500 acres of meadow habitat that’s actually going to be established from a cutover moonscape right now to about 500 acres of meadow habitat, and that’s not even counting clover and plants and flowers and grasses that are under the panels,’” – WVTF 

Thistlerock Meadery is set to keep 100 hives on the solar site once development is completed. 

Research Shows Solar Shade Helps Restore Biocrusts

“Arizona State University (ASU) professor Ferran Garcia-Pichel and his research team have proposed to use solar arrays as a solution to the problem of excess heat and light, creating a shaded nursery to promote biocrust growth.

The researchers performed a proof-of-concept experiment in the Sonoran Desert, studying biocrust growth for three years. During the study, the PV array promoted biocrust formation, doubling biocrust total biomass and tripling its coverage area when compared to open areas with similar soil characteristics. Natural recovery of harvested biocrusts can take six to eight years to recuperate without intervention, but re-inoculated areas under the solar panels were able to nearly fully recover within one year.” – PV Magazine

More information on this research can be found here.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) AgriSolar Clearinghouse today premiered its short film “The Solar Shepherd” during the 2023 Solar Farm Summit in Chicago.

The film showcases a family-owned farm in central Massachusetts that’s raising sheep and solar energy on the same piece of land. AgriSolar or agrivoltaic partnerships are growing across solar-appropriate farmland in the U.S., providing a new revenue source for farmers, clean energy for surrounding communities, and myriad benefits to crops, livestock, and pollinators.

“It’s been a wonderful friendship between the two businesses,” says Solar Shepherd LLC founder Dan Finnegan. “We can’t access enough land to keep our farm sustainable, without this partnership with solar, we wouldn’t have a successful farm, we simply don’t have enough acres to graze.”

Finnegan partnered with SWEB Development Inc. on the 15-acre solar array which provides enough clean energy to power 1,100 homes and has so-far raised 45 lambs to maturity.

“You can have this partnership in a one-acre field, a 15-acre field up to a couple hundred acres,” says Joe Mendelsohn, project developer with SWEB Development Inc.

NCAT’s AgriSolar Clearinghouse is connecting businesses, land managers, and researchers with trusted resources to support the growth of co-located solar and sustainable agriculture.

“Tremendous potential exists in partnerships between farmers and solar developers,” says NCAT Energy Director Stacie Peterson, PhD. “As the demand for solar energy grows, it’s up to us to be good stewards of the finite land resources we have and maximize the benefit to farmers, communities, and the environment.”

Sheep grazing at the Mechanicsville site.

Located near Richmond, Virginia, the Mechanicsville solar park is one of the state’s first utility-scale solar sites. Covering over 220 acres, the 28-megawatt, single-axis tracking site provides a source of clean power to thousands of homes in the state. More than just a solar site, though, the location is also the home base for hundreds of sheep under the care of Eric Bronson and Sam Perkins at James River Grazing. 

James River Grazing started in 2016 when founder Eric Bronson noticed the solar industry beginning to take off in Virginia. A Virginia native, Bronson attended college at Montana State University and worked for several years on large, range-based livestock operations before returning to his home state. He knew he wanted to stay involved in agriculture, but without already owning land, he realized the upfront costs were prohibitive. Compared to raising cattle or growing crops, the lower initial investment needed to successfully farm sheep gave Bronson the chance to farm in a traditional production environment before the company received its first solar grazing contract in 2019.  

For solar sites without grazing plans, mowing must be brought in for vegetation management, a difficult task for many solar developers in recent years due to labor shortages. “The grazing came along at the perfect time,” Bronson says. He explains that the Mechanicsville site was being mowed about once a month, but with the integration of livestock, it was reduced to a “clean up” mow in the fall and smaller mows in early spring. Even then, “they’re not mowing one hundred percent of the site,” Bronson explains. Only about a quarter of the site is mowed at these times, significantly lowering the time and labor cost required to control the vegetation. 

Sheep grazing under the solar panels.

Operating on the Mechanicsville site didn’t come without its challenges, however. The site hosts between 100 and 300 ewes at a time, depending on the time of year and vegetation growth. While smaller operations will move flocks on and off location seasonally, James River Grazing operates on the site year-round. Not having facilities on-site and the expansive costs to move the sheep off-site is an added layer of difficulty that comes with grazing sheep on utility-scale sites. “Everything has to be portable,” Bronson points out. Nonetheless, James River Grazing’s efforts have been so successful that SunEnergy1, the solar developer for the site, hired Bronson as Director of Livestock for the entire company and has implemented solar grazing on a number of other sites, as well. 

With a total of six grazing sites and around 1,500 sheep, Bronson says James River Grazing is looking to continue its success by creating additional partnerships with developers across the region. While being one of the first to embrace solar grazing comes with some advantages, it also means that learning involved a significant amount of trial and error. “That was one of the biggest roadblocks,” Bronson says, referring to the lack of available resources to help guide them in the early days. Their knowledge and experience also put them in an ideal place to help solar developers create construction plans with solar grazing in mind, making it much easier for grazers to care for the sheep on site. James River Grazing is still working out the details for exactly how they plan on moving into the consulting space, but their track record of success will undoubtedly make them a valuable resource for solar developers and new grazers alike.  

All photos courtesy of James River Grazing.

by Emily Griffith of Renewable NorthWest

Renewable Northwest and a small workgroup are preparing an update to the 2019 report, Dual-Use Solar in the Pacific Northwest: A Way Forward, in response to the changing landscape of agrivoltaics (also referred to as dual-use solar) in the region. This blog will explain the need for a fresh look at dual-use in the Pacific Northwest and describe some of the themes important to the conversation.

Why Do We Need to Revisit Dual-use Solar?

The Biden Administration recently set a goal of reaching 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035. Many states have similar requirements of reaching net-zero GHG emissions. To reach these targets, extensive buildout of solar energy will be a cornerstone of the evolving energy grid. Dual-use solar allows farmers to use their land both as farmland and as a site to generate electricity (and additional income).

In Renewable Northwest’s 2019 report, staff explored the potential and practicality of dual-use solar by looking at advantages and disadvantages, policies, project examples, and best practices. Given the increased attention agrivoltaics has received recently, including federal research investments and policy changes, it’s time to revisit the report. The updated report (to be completed in spring 2023) will explore recent updates in agrivoltaics. Here is what you can expect:

What Has Not Changed?

The conversation around dual-use in the Pacific Northwest is still in early stages. To date, the region still does not have many dual-use projects, but some solar and pollinator projects do exist. For example, Pine Gate Renewables’ Eagle Point Solar is a 13-MW solar and pollinator project located on 41 acres in Medford, Oregon. Previously, the land was used for dairy grazing. Now, the site contains a diverse seed mix of pollinating flowers with over 30 types of native flowers and grasses. Old Sol Apiaries is a business based in southern Oregon that provides bees for honey makers and commercial pollinators. Bees forage on native pollinator plants under Pine Gate’s panels. They also provide bees at other solar-pollinator locations, such as a 73-acre project in Clackamas County, Oregon.

Eagle Point Solar Location

There are a few reasons why dual-use is still not as widely used in this region as it is in others. For instance, there are still policy barriers. In fact, every year there are regular efforts pushing back against solar development by legislators in the Northwest. For example, in Oregon, the Land Conservation and Development Commission issued a rulemaking in 2019 limiting the amount of land to 12 acres that a farmer could use for a solar project located on high-value farmland. However, there was potential for counties to issue ordinances that could increase to 20 acres for dual-use projects. The difficulty with this rulemaking was that it sunsetted after two and a half years, and counties did not have much of a chance to develop an ordinance before the sunset. Additionally, counties in Washington state are continuing to develop ordinances that limit renewable energy development, including potential dual-use projects.

Agrivoltaics continues to be a challenging environment. The idea of agrivoltaics originated in Europe and is just gaining momentum in the U.S. A recent article by Jeff Turrentine at the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) states that in a number of Asian and European countries, agrivoltaics has gained much more ground. For instance, in Japan, there are 2,000 agrivoltaic installations, whereas in the U.S., there are less than 50 accounted for. The U.S. is not as far along as others for a few reasons:

  • There are significant up-front costs and barriers to entry.
  • Research on large-scale solar with crops and grazing is still considered to be in early stages.
  • There is limited transmission for projects to connect to. Projects most often need to be located near the electricity load (demand).
  • Many farmers are still uneasy about the idea of combining solar and agriculture.

What Has Changed?

While there still are not many dual-use projects in the Northwest, we have seen more interest in the idea of advancing dual-use. New research continues to be published on the advances in dual-use technology and solar-crop compatibility. Some recent studies even suggest that, under the protection of solar panels, certain crops may grow stronger and longer that may otherwise succumb to higher temperatures more readily.

Another interesting Oregon State University study found that there is a symbiotic relationship between solar panels and the crops that grow beneath them. Crops exposed to increased levels of sunlight require more water. With solar panels providing shade and cooler temperatures, less water is lost to evaporation and the plants require less water from irrigation. But perhaps the more interesting finding is that the panels were found to perform better with the crops growing beneath them. The crops beneath the panels contributed to keeping the local environment cooler. With cooler temperatures, the panels operate more efficiently, generating about 10% more electricity than panels installed over gravel.

There are additional efforts and funding being devoted to studying and implementing dual-use projects. Last December, DOE announced $8 million in funding for projects that integrate solar energy production with farming. An energy.gov article states that the funding is intended to reduce barriers to both community and utility-scale solar energy deployment while also maximizing benefits to farmers and local communities. The six states (and the District of Columbia) selected for funding are not located in the Pacific Northwest region. However, the studies will likely produce valuable knowledge that can be integrated here, as well. Some of the topics pertain to socioeconomics, technical aspects, outreach strategies, deployment resources, sustainability, and markets in rural North America.

Additionally, in 2021, the USDA awarded the University of Illinois $10 million to determine the types of crops that are best suited to pair with solar. The research sites include Illinois, Arizona, and Colorado.

With already cost-competitive solar bolstered by the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, solar development is expected to increase dramatically. Hopefully, this means we will see more dual-use projects. And, the increased interest in studying agrivoltaics from the DOE and USDA could perhaps be a sign federal aid is on the way for farmers interested in agrivoltaics. Right now, there is a real need for additional mechanisms and incentives for those interested in pursuing dual-use projects in particular.

How Is the Region Reacting to the Prospect of Dual-use?

While dual-use solar may not be a silverbullet solution to siting solar on farmland, it does offer a tool of flexibility for farmers. This tool can provide additional income that keeps farmers farming and keeps farmland as farmland. The previously mentioned NRDC article states that many people are optimistic about the idea of expanding agrivoltaic facilities with options to sustain farming, potential to bring in new farmers, and stabilize land for crops that could otherwise go to more permanent types of development.

What’s Next?

There are still many other areas of interest that updated report may investigate. For instance, we need to know: Four years later, where are we? Have many projects been implemented since 2019 and how are they doing? Are projects happening practically? What are the dos and don’ts of building a dual-use project? What are the many other studies saying? What are the farmers concerned about?

The U.S. is looking to develop about five times the solar we have to date over the next 10 years, and that solar will require land (at least for its useful life). But new solar buildouts don’t have to result in conflicts. Many think agrivoltaics is a key solution, especially when it comes to avoiding potential conflicts between energy and food production. And with more research and funding being devoted to the idea, dual-use is becoming less of a research question and more of a reality.

If you would like to be notified when the final and updated dual-use report is available, please contact Emily at emily@renewablenw.org

Sheep grazing around solar panels. Photo: Agrisolar Clearinghouse.

By Tyler Swanson and Quin Karhoff

The Bock Agricultural Law and Policy Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign is conducting a study supported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on the economics of solar grazing. Our research goal is to determine the structure of a solar grazing business, the cost associated with entering the solar grazing market, and a general range of profits a solar grazer can expect to earn in a given year. With this data, we aim to create a free, customizable budget tool that prospective solar grazers can use to gain a better understanding of the cost of entering the market and the revenues they can generate over time.

To accomplish our research goals, we would greatly appreciate you taking a few minutes to complete the survey linked below about your solar grazing operation. Be assured that your identity will be kept confidential.

Further, we understand that your time has value. If you include your email address at the end of the survey, we will send you a $5 Amazon gift card to compensate you for your participation.

Thank you for your assistance and we hope that the findings of our study will be beneficial to your operation. If you have any questions, please reach out to Tyler Swanson at tswans4@illinois.edu

Take the survey here.

By Asaf Maman and Avi Elkayam, Trigo Solar 

Declining precipitation levels and the associated reduction in arable land can negatively impact rural communities and pose a threat to food security. While utility-scale solar projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they can also encroach on arable lands and reduce the yield of rainfed crops. Wheat, barley, soy, corn, and other grains are cultivated in rainfed fields that are vital to food security. As precipitation levels decline and desertification spreads, arable land and farms that produce these crops are in peril.   

As solar energy is employed in the conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy, hundreds of thousands of square miles of land will include solar development. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there will be roughly 22,000 square miles of solar in the U.S. by 2035i. It is important to understand that the actual land for solar development must be adjacent to grid or to power demand centers. The growing competition between farming, suburban development, and solar development highlights the potential for agrivoltaics.  

Agri-PV is a solution to this issue. It can significantly improve the cultivation of staple foods that substantially affect global food security by cracking the code and untying the water-land knot. By increasing the amount of water available for rainfed crops, we can increase the amount of arable land and avail a portion of it for sustainable solar development. 

In a series of field-controlled winter wheat experiments, Trigo has discovered an almost linear correlation between the amount of water supplied to cultivated area and the quantity of stem biomass and nutritional value. Based on these findings, Trigo designed an east-west solar array formation and solar table structure to both collect and regulate rainwater for redistribution into a cultivated row below. By increasing the rain capture area from both structures, enclosing, and effectively directing the rain, we managed to control the amount of water and increase it, countering the effects of declining precipitation over years.  

North-south solar array over winter wheat. Photo: Trigo Solar 

Design schematic. Source: Trigo Solar 

This design is focused on economic and efficient deployment of solar arrays that improve rain collection and redistribute water to boost crops growth, counter drought effects, and revive agricultural operations.  

Rainwater catchment design schedmatic. Source: Trigo Solar 

Benefits to this design include:  

  1. Maintaining the same yields from smaller cultivated surface area requires more limited farming operations and lower expenses, which can increase farm profitability. 
  1. Capturing more water and channeling it smartly reduces the risk of drought and the associated annual volatility and provides the farm with a drought shield. 
  1. Increased ground wetness, root growth, and wind shield from the solar rows reduces the erosion and carry away of the upper soil layer, which create irreversible damage to farms. 
  1. Preserved land under the Trigo structure can be used for future land reserve and land rotation. 
  1. The steady income from solar power generation can support farm economics and mitigate farming financial risks. 
  1. The availability of cheap, local, green power can further support many of the farm operations expected to undergo electrification in the coming decade. 
  1. The existence of a water-distribution and cheap-power system changes the economics of farming, potentially allowing the cultivation of second seasonal crop during the dry season.  

These benefits have the potential to create more win-win opportunities for effective cooperation between the agricultural and sustainable energy sectors. 

Trigo will continue its experiments to validate the benefits for major U.S. staple crops at U.S. farms to share the knowledge and promote sustainable mass Agri-PV development.  

Win for America’s Farmers: Harvesting Solar Energy 

“America’s solar industry has boomed in recent years, and is slated for a big boost from the Democrats’ recently passed climate bill. Yet solar still only accounts for about 3 percent of electricity flowing into America’s grid—less than one-seventh the share from coal. If we want to phase out fossil fuels and accommodate an electric vehicle revolution, the sun’s contribution has to rise dramatically—and fast. But where to put all the panles?

The best places for solar installations, according to a 2019 study from the University of Utah and Oregon State, tend to be the areas where we already grow our food. That’s because, just like sun-loving tomato plants that fare poorly when the mercury creeps north of 85 °F, photovoltaic (PV) panels lose their efficiency at higher temperatures. But that doesn’t mean we have to starve ourselves to keep lights on and cars humming. By elevating solar panels far enough above the ground so people, plants, and animals can operate underneath, we can “essentially harvest the sun twice,” says University of Arizona researcher Greg Barron-Gafford. Enough sunlight to grow crops gets past the panels, which also act as a shield against extreme heat, drought, and storms.” – Mother Jones  

5 Signs the US Agrisolar Revolution has Begun  

“An upswell of opposition to large-scale solar power plants on farms took shape in the U.S. last spring, partly fueled by conspiracy theories about climate change. Nevertheless, farmland is attractive to solar developers. Now they have a new support system on their side, in the form of agrivoltaics.” – Triplepundit.com  

Solar Energy Corporation of India Issues Tender to Install Agrisolar Pumps 

“New Delhi: The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) on Monday issued a tender for setting up agricultural solar pumps in selected states pan-India under component-B of the PM-KUSUM scheme of the renewable energy ministry.  

‘Individual farmers will be supported to install standalone solar agriculture pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP for replacement of existing diesel agriculture pumps and irrigation systems in off-grid areas, where grid supply is not available. Installation of new pumps will be permitted under this scheme except in dark zone areas,’ said the SECI tender document.” – Energyworld.com 

UC Davis Study Shows Harvesting Various Light Spectra Benefits Agrisolar  

“Scientists from the University of California, Davis, are investigating how to better harvest the sun — and its optimal light spectrum — to make agrivoltaic systems more efficient in arid agricultural regions like California. 

Their study, published in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, found that the red part of the light spectrum is more efficient for growing plants, while the blue part of the spectrum is better used for solar production.” UCDavis.com 

Massachusetts Sees Increase in Agrisolar Incentives 

“A Massachusetts incentive program for projects that blend solar energy and agricultural production shows signs of finally gaining momentum after a slow rollout that has at times frustrated solar developers and farmers alike. 

In 2018, Massachusetts became the first state to offer financial incentives for “dual-use” or “agrivoltaic” solar projects built above active agricultural land. Since the launch, however, just three projects have gotten up and running. Another eight have qualified for the incentive but not yet been built.” – Energynews.com