Solar installations may cover more than 3 million acres of the United States over the next decade, opening the door for PV to be paired with agricultural land to produce food, conserve ecosystems, and maximize income for farmers.
This opportunity led the National Center for Appropriate Technology to launch what it said is the nation’s first AgriSolar Clearinghouse to connect farmers, ranchers, land managers, solar developers, and researchers with information about co-locating solar and agriculture.
The clearinghouse features a library of peer-reviewed information, videos, podcasts, news, and a forum for agrivoltaics discussion. More than 30 partners and stakeholders in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, national energy laboratories, the Smithsonian, and leading universities participated in its creation.
Research by Oregon State University found that solar and agricultural co-location could provide 20% of the total electricity generation in the United States. Wide-scale installation of agrivoltaics could lead to an annual reduction of 330,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions while “minimally” impacting crop yield, the researchers said. The paper found that an area about the size of Maryland would be needed if agrivoltaics were to meet 20% of U.S. electricity generation. That’s about 13,000 square miles, or 1% of current U.S. farmland.
Arizona State University also conducted a study and found “probable barriers to wider adoption” that ranged from mechanized farming and harvesting to the additional costs of elevating PV arrays to allow for food production.
The clearinghouse project was funded by a three-year, $2 million cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.