Site preparation costs for utility-scale solar projects are expected to account for 20 percent of utility-scale photovoltaics installed costs in 2020. In 2016 the National Renewable Energy Lab began studying low-impact solar development approaches that have the potential to:
- Provide significant co-benefits to agriculture
- Reduce development costs and environmental impact
In a Department of Energy-sponsored webinar, National Renewable Energy Lab’s Jordan Macknick, SoCore Energy’s Laura Caspari, and Fresh Energy’s Rob Davis presented an update on research and work related to co-location of agriculture and solar.
Led by Macknick, National Renewable Energy Lab’s InSPIRE project will comprehensively assess baseline costs, as well as strategies for cost reduction and for environmental impact reduction.
Davis reviewed the agricultural benefits of pollinator habitat—a low-growing meadow mix of grasses and flowers. Caspari shared best practices in seeding pollinator-friendly vegetation under and around ground-mounted solar arrays — a practice the company has implemented in multiple states.
Discussion included a review of a recent economic analysis showing increased yields for 10 major crops as a result of nearby pollinator habitat and a review of specific large-scale solar projects in multiple states.
In 2016, Fresh Energy and Audubon Minnesota—in partnership with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Farmers Union, and a coalition of agricultural and business leaders—established a statewide standard for pollinator-friendly solar.
A long-time agricultural leader and the fourth-largest agricultural exporting state in the U.S., Minnesota is scaling from less than 40 megawatts of solar capacity statewide in early 2016 to more than 500 megawatts by late 2017. The discussion will include the applicability and adaptability of Minnesota’s standard for pollinator-friendly solar to other states.
National Renewable Energy Lab