We need more solar power, we need more good farmland

Although drought, fire, and erosion continue to decrease good farmland, populations continue to increase. And because farmers in one area tend to grow the same main crops as everyone else in that area, prices stay very low. Agrivoltaic systems can double revenue streams, increase crop value, make the solar output more efficient - all while saving water, meeting long-term renewable energy goals, and assuring a secure long-term food supply. In many places, they resolve the conflict between using land for energy versus for food production. We need more of both!

NREL expects that by 2030, utility-scale solar in the USA will cover almost 2 million acres of land. This offers an unexpected benefit for farmers. The shade from PV modules can let farmers grow crops that can't survive or thrive in full sun. They can harvest a more valuable crop from the same land that gives them additional revenue from their solar systems. At the same time, growing crops under or near the modules makes them on average 10% more efficient while providing shade that lets water go deeper and increases conservation. The environmental benefits become huge: an Oregon State University study recently estimated that using only 1% of American farmland in this way would meet our renewable energy targets, save immense amounts of water, and help create a more sustainable, long-term food supply which - as it is now - can no longer keep up with the world's population.

Agrivoltaic Systems prevent the competition between farmers wanting to grow crops and the energy industry wanting to install more solar modules. Common agricultural systems use 70% of the world's freshwater and cause more than 1/3 of the greenhouse gasses going into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Our irrigation systems, when connected to solar modules, can reverse those negative effects while creating more income for farmers.

For simple systems you can just connect a rain gutter to the bottom of a ground-mounted solar array and channel the water into a reservoir connected to our BluSoak line. The water level in the reservoir only needs to be 1 to 2 feet above the ground. The spacing between solar modules on their mounting frames can adjust to the amount of light needed for a particular crop. More complicated and expensive systems can remotely control the array angles to better harvest rain, protect from hail, or adjust the amount of sun to match the individual crop's need. Auto-gravity systems in remote areas can help grow trees on the north side of solar modules and help with more carbon sequestration, erosion prevention, and food-forest generation. In some cases, moving the water further away from the solar panels prevents the extra costs of needing more steel to mount the panels higher so that farm equipment can go underneath.

According to the DOE , a recent agrivoltaic project in Arizona increased their crop yield by over 300% while decreasing their irrigation requirement by 50%. A University of Arizona study found improved flavor of potatoes, basil and squash grown this way. These systems have also proven themselves in vineyards and shrimp farming. The DOE reports that systems like this have already generated 14 gigawatts of electricity - enough for the energy used each year by 2 million household in the USA.

Sustainable Village™ - Better Ways to Water
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