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. Download PDF of slides. 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.
The U.S. Department of Energy recently highlighted Fresh Energy’s work in pollinator friendly solar projects during a well-attended national webinar, “Co-location of Solar and Agriculture.” Watch the webinar.
Site preparation costs for large-scale solar projects are expected to account for 20 percent of large-scale solar PV installed costs in 2020. Reducing these costs via low-impact development can lead to cascading reductions in other environmental-related costs and risks — and provide important co-benefits to agriculture. A long-time agricultural leader and the fourth-largest agricultural exporting state in the U.S., Minnesota is scaling from less than 20 megawatts of solar capacity statewide in early 2016 to 700-1,000 megawatts by late 2017. Fresh Energy hosted Jordan Macknick from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) for an update on research and work related to co-location of agriculture and solar. Mr. Macknick is the lead analyst on InSPIRE—Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment—a three-year study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Authored by agriculture leaders, a new law sends a clear signal to the solar industry regarding a preferred practice for use of land on solar sites. State-wide standard will meaningfully help Minnesota’s bees, monarchs, pheasants, and songbirds, by providing abundant, high-quality foraging habitat on solar sites.
When investing $1-$2 million per acre in solar panels, one tends to focus on the benefits directly generated by the new hardware — 100% fuel-free energy with no moving parts. However—simply by using the right seed mix—each of these sites can also provide significant agricultural benefits related to storm water, soil, and crop pollination.