New reports highlight best practices of combining solar energy and agriculture

Two new reports from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) highlight the potential for successfully and synergistically combining agriculture and solar photovoltaics (PV) technologies on the same land, a practice known as agrivoltaics. With ground-mounted solar deployment projected to triple by 2030, there will be many opportunities to increase agrivoltaic practices.

The first report, The 5 Cs of Agrivoltaic Success Factors in the United States: Lessons From the InSPIRE Research Study, examines the Innovative Solar Practices Integrated with Rural Economies and Ecosystems (InSPIRE) project, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) starting in 2015. Over the past seven years, the project’s multiple phases have studied the co-location of solar with crops, grazing cattle or sheep, and/or pollinator-friendly native plants, and the resulting ecological and agricultural benefits.

According to InSPIRE research, there are five central elements that lead to agrivoltaic success:

  • Climate, Soil, and Environmental Conditions – The location must be appropriate for both solar generation and the desired crops or ground cover. Generally, land that is suitable for solar is suitable for agriculture, as long as the soil can sustain growth.
  • Configurations, Technologies, and Designs – The choice of solar technology, the site layout, and other infrastructure can affect everything from how much light reaches the solar panels to whether a tractor, if needed, can drive under the panels.
  • Crop Selection and Cultivation Methods, Seed and Vegetation Designs, and Management Approaches – Agrivoltaic projects should select crops or ground covers that will thrive in the local climate and under solar panels, and that are profitable in local markets.
  • Compatibility and Flexibility – Agrivoltaics should be designed to accommodate the competing needs of solar owners, solar operators, and farmers or landowners to allow for efficient agricultural activities.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships – For any project to succeed, communication and understanding between groups is crucial.

The InSPIRE project also captured lessons for researchers. The Agriculture and Solar Together: Research Opportunities (ASTRO) report addresses emerging questions related to scaling up agrivoltaic deployment, identifying barriers, and supporting improved decision-making about agrivoltaic investments.

InSPIRE is the largest, longest-running, and most comprehensive agrivoltaics research effort in the world. The project has supported agrivoltaics site design or ongoing research at 28 sites in 11 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

Learn more about agrivoltaics research on the InSPIRE website and through the AgriSolar Clearinghouse, which features videos, tutorials, and guides that address a wide range of topics.

Learn more about SETO’s research into solar and agriculture co-location.

Lithium and the Future of Electrification

DOE’s new Lithium StoryMap lays out the relationship between geothermal energy and lithium while exploring why the DOE is investing in technologies supporting lithium extraction from geothermal brines. Using an easily digestible format, visitors can scroll through the role of lithium in renewable energy today, how the critical material is currently obtained, and why the Salton Sea region of California may prove to be a key domestic source—with a little help from geothermal energy. As lithium demand continues to grow, geothermal energy may soon play a greater role in our lives and in the green economy.

A new era of made-in-USA solar

Read the full story at pv magazine.

There are both challenges and benefits to boosting solar manufacturing in America. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes a host of measures to support the production of US renewable energy technologies and could foster a new era for made-in-America solar. pv magazine USA Senior Editor Anne Fischer explores the current status and outlook of US solar manufacturing.

Sustainability requires new thinking

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

As we build tenfold the number of solar, wind, and clean storage facilities, we must not cause unintended consequences. We cannot negatively impact vulnerable communities or the environment. We must protect clean water supplies, vegetated wetlands, and valuable vistas for future generations.

To ensure we plan correctly and don’t make the same mistakes we did in the past, planners use a concept called Geodesign.

We need new corporate energy procurement standards to decarbonize the grid

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The current standards have served their purpose, but we must evolve to Accounting 2.0 to account for siting and timing of clean energy.

Innovative partnerships bring community solar to low-income households in the US

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Over the last 15 years, community solar in the United States has grown dramatically: Installed community solar capacity increased almost 700 percent between 2006 and 2019.

But these gains have not always translated into access for low- and moderate-income (LMI) customers. To support LMI participation in the clean energy economy and broader uptake of community solar, the development of catalytic partnerships — dynamic relationships that link utilities, non-profits, financial institutions, developers and other stakeholders to ease financial impediments — will be critical.

Gov. Pritzker announces formation of Midwest Hydrogen Coalition

Read the news release.

Illinois joined six other Midwestern states in announcing the development of the Midwest Hydrogen Coalition, an agreement that will boost the state’s decarbonization efforts. In addition to Illinois, the coalition includes Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.

Powertrain system created to improve wind, water turbine efficiency and environmental impact

Read the full story from Purdue University.

Purdue University engineers Jun Chen and Lizhi Shang have designed a powertrain system to improve turbines that generate wind energy and marine hydrokinetic energy. The design transmits power from the low-speed high-torque turbine to the high-speed, low-torque generator. It also uses water as the hydraulic fluid.

Why the energy transition broke the U.S. interconnection system

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The same processes that created the U.S. power system may now be preventing its transition to clean generation.

Here’s how the new US tax credits and rebates will work for clean energy home upgrades

Electrek spoke with Dan Gayer, JD, CPA, a senior manager in the tax practice at Baker Newman Noyes, about how homeowners can claim tax credits and rebates as they work to achieve energy efficiency and lower their energy bills.