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Solar, Agriculture Team Up for Energy Production

There’s a new emerging industry in town, and it blends renewables with agriculture, according to CNBC

What’s going on: “[A]grivoltaics combines solar energy production with agricultural activities such as sheep grazing, beekeeping and crop growing. This land management strategy could help alleviate the tension between farmers and solar developers, groups that often have competing land-use interests.”

  • One Texas-based land and sheep owner gets lease payments from Lightsource BP, a solar energy firm 50% owned by energy company BP, for having solar panels on her land.
  • Lightsource also pays her to graze her sheep around the panels to keep vegetation at bay.

Why it’s important: “The [U.S.] will need to build out a massive amount of utility-scale solar to meet its decarbonization goals. Given that agricultural land comprises 44% of the U.S.’ total land area, many solar developers are looking to cite new projects on farms.”

  • Lightsource operates approximately 12% of the country’s agrivoltaic supply and plans to continue adding projects.

​​​​​​​A steady income: “It’s a much better financial contribution than growing crops,” another farmer who leases land to Lightsource told CNBC. “Crops are very risky. So some years you may make a good return and other years you may not. And so this is a steady income every year.”

DOE funding: The Department of Energy is backing six agrivoltaic endeavors.

A caveat: While it’s easy enough to graze sheep around solar panels, growing crops under them is another matter. To make it work, “the design of the solar array usually needs to be altered … [and] [t]hat gets costly,” according to CNBC.

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