Agrivoltaic research seeded with DOE fundsS. Himmelstein | December 19, 2022
Research projects launched to advance agrivoltaics — the co-location of agricultural production and solar energy generation on the same land — are being supported with a funding boost from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The selected initiatives are designed to reduce barriers to utility- and community-scale solar energy deployment while maximizing benefits for farmers and local communities
A recent study conducted by U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers underscores the ecological and agricultural benefits that could result from improving agrivoltaic practices, such as reduced land use conflicts, diversified revenue opportunities and increased renewable energy supply. Currently, less than 2% of solar energy projects in the U.S. are co-located with crops or pollinator habitats.
The projects selected for DOE funding will explore multiple configurations of solar system design, crops and cultivation methods, and soil and environmental conditions. Researchers will work with agricultural extensions and develop resources to spread the best practices to farmers and communities.
- Iowa State University: With $1.6 million in funding, this project will study horticulture and beekeeping at solar sites, produce decision support tools, and provide agrivoltaics training programs for farmers and other stakeholders.
- Rutgers University: This project team will use $1.6 million in funding to conduct crop and grazing trials at two solar array testbeds, study community perceptions of agrivoltaics, and create a regional agrivoltaics network for agricultural extension staff in the northeastern U.S., beginning with their partnership with Delaware State University, a historically black land-grant university.
- Solar and Storage Industries Institute (Washington, D.C.): This project team will partner with the agriculture and utility sectors to identify barriers to implementing agrivoltaics and produce case studies and guides for solar developers, farmers and decision-makers. The award amount is $500,000.
- The Ohio State University has been awarded $1.8 million to conduct grazing and forage (hay) production trials using precision agriculture technologies and study the impacts on soil health at an operating utility-scale solar site.
- University of Alaska Fairbanks will use $1.3 million in DOE funds to research agrivoltaics specifically adapted to the food and energy needs of high-latitude underserved communities.
- University of Arizona research will pilot grazing and climate-smart agriculture under a traditional utility-scale solar site to maximize energy, food and water benefits in the arid southwestern U.S. The award amount is $1.2 million.