New Solar Farm Piles Even Extra Inexperienced Onto Inexperienced Power
Green energy is getting greener. In the latest development, the largest agrivoltaic research project in the US is taking shape in Colorado in and around a series of solar panels, which means they will not plant a bed of gravel under the solar panels. You will plant plants for humans, animals, birds and insects to eat. This is just a taste of the community benefits that come with Jack’s Solar Garden in Boulder County, Colorado.
Put the green in green energy
Solar parks have become a lifeline for farmers in need of income, but the problem is that traditional solar systems are not very rural. Policy makers are already concerned that replacing too much farmland with solar panels will lead to food supply problems.
Agrivoltaics was born when a lightbulb went into someone’s head. If you take an ordinary floor-mounted solar panel and raise it just a few feet above the ground, enough sunlight and water can get to the earth to do some farming underneath.
Since there is no free lunch, the larger racks would be more expensive and it could be difficult to get started harvesting grain on a commercial scale while dodging between the more expensive racks.
Even so, agrivoltaics has developed like a rocket over the past year, which has been accompanied by an increase in interest in the field of regenerative agriculture. Soil and water protection is the main overlap as the solar panel helps reduce evaporation. Meanwhile, the cooling effect of the vegetation helps improve the solar conversion efficiency.
The knowledge base is growing rapidly and at least one leading solar developer, Lightsource BP, is already offering an agrivoltaic perspective for its PV business.
US Energy Department Hearts Green Energy
To date, much of the US agrivoltaic activity has focused on combining pollinator habitats and pasture land with green energy. There are also some fun things to do in the cranberry moors.
Meanwhile, the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory is among those interested in growing actual vegetables for the people who want to eat between the solar panels.
This is where Jack’s Solar Garden comes in. In 2019, the family-owned farm was awarded a NREL award to serve as the location of the largest agrivoltaic research project in the United States and to use the 24-acre farm’s 1.2 megawatt solar array.
NREL is involved in the project as a project manager and technical supporter. Colorado State University conducts desktop and field studies. The University of Arizona is also on board the project.
The original proposal for the study area was quite modest and consisted of only 1 hectare with different vegetables. A lot of punch is packed into the room, however, including a new rainwater distribution system that uses runoff from the solar panels.
Everyone listens to agrivoltaics
The green energy part of the project took shape last fall when Jacks Solar Garden put its new solar system into operation. The first planting season will take place this spring. In addition to the usual wildflowers and grasses, vegetables such as carrots, onions, tomatoes and pumpkins are housed in the field.
A new surge of activity in the field of agrivoltaics in the USA could also begin this spring. The solar supply chain is already preparing to spark investor interest.
Earlier this week, Ohio-based PV tracker company Solar FlexRack introduced Jacks Solar Garden in a press release promoting its “TDP Turnkey Solar Trackers,” which solar developer Namasté Solar used to build the array at Jack’s .
“Namasté Solar … chose the Solar FlexRack TDP solar trackers for their versatility as well as their intelligent backtracking that reduces shading across rows and increases energy production,” enthused Solar FlexRack, adding that the “customizable TDP Solar -Trackers Namasté Solar made it possible to overcome the challenge is to install the trackers at different heights to test the effects of different amounts of shade and sunlight on plant growth while maximizing solar energy yield. “
Additional benefits for green energy for the green business of the future
For those of you looking to score at home, Solar FlexRack is a division of Northern State Metals in Ohio, and the parent company is not missing out on the opportunity to tie its star to green energy sources, along with a number of community benefits.
The Solar FlexRack press release shares a lot of love with Jacks Solar Garden and states that “With the help of Namasté Solar and Solar FlexRack, Jack’s has been able to highlight the idea of community while promoting the next generation of agrivoltaic farmers”.
The following details are highlighted in the press release:
1. Namasté Solar is an employee owned cooperative and has been a certified B corporation since 2011. This means that it is “a legal requirement to consider the impact of your decisions on employees, suppliers, communities, consumers and the environment”.
2. Audubon Rockies planted their largest “Habitat Hero” garden around the solar system, consisting of 1,800 perennials.
3. Sprout City Farms will farm the crops and train Colorado’s first generation of farmers in green energy. The nonprofit is known for building urban education farms and supporting local food systems to improve the health and resilience of the population.
4. Jack’s Solar Garden donates 2% of its green energy production to local low-income households.
5. Jack’s also has an Artist on the Farm program to support local artists.
6. And Jack’s founded the new Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center, a nonprofit that will run educational tours and conduct on-site research.
More green energy for the whole community
In order to freeze the green energy cake, solar energy from the solar system in Jacks Solar Garden falls under a collective solar program carried out by the energy supplier Xcel Energy. Community Solar refers to solar projects that enable local tariff payers to get a piece of green energy from solar panels in or near their community.
The Department of Energy is a huge fan of solar programs in the community and sees them as a key way to bring affordable solar power within reach of every US household.
Community solar programs also offer local businesses a green advertising space. Local company Western Disposal, for example, received some positive media attention when it partnered with Jacks Solar Garden for green energy last week.
“Thanks to a new partnership with Jack’s Solar Garden, Western Disposal now gets approximately 90% of its electricity from renewable sources,” said Yahoo! News.
Then there is Boulder-based national cannabis producer Terrapin, who has signed a deal for 10% of Jack’s Solar Garden’s production. There is growing pressure on indoor cannabis growers to be careful about their carbon footprint, and the solar deal will allow Terrapin to use 25% renewable energy for its operations.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo via prnewswire.com: “Byron Kominek, owner of Jacks Solar Garden, is driving his family’s tractor through the solar power system (Courtesy Werner Slocum, National Renewable Energy Laboratory).
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