Agrivoltaics in Practice: Maximizing Positive Impact

By: Pivot Energy

May 16 2023

As a Certified B Corporation, we believe in driving meaningful positive change and establishing business practices that enrich our collective human experience. One of the ways we stay true to that commitment is by Incorporating agrivoltaics into our process of developing community solar farms.

If you are not familiar with agrivoltaics, check out our previous blog, which covers how leading solar developers combine photovoltaic arrays and agricultural land uses to optimize their positive impact. These sustainable land management practices are markedly better for the environment and provide long-term economic and educational benefits to hosting communities. Here we will reveal why and how we incorporate various conservation and land stewardship efforts into our solar farm development process.

Why Do We Pair Agrivoltaics with Community Solar Farms?

Agrivoltaics takes a holistic approach to solar farm development. It considers how to implement low-impact construction techniques, land stewardship practices, and end-of-life decommissioning plans to optimize the solar farm’s overall impact on the land throughout the project’s lifespan.

Pairing community solar farms with agricultural practices is especially fruitful. Panels provide much-needed shading for vegetation and also help maintain solar moisture. Additionally, an agrivoltaics model can make the project even more appealing to community solar subscribers who want their subscription to generate additional positive environmental and social impacts beyond supporting renewable energy generation. 

Even before agrivoltaics comes into play, solar farm development is already an excellent option for landowners who need a new reliable source of income. Unfortunately, farmers and ranchers are facing declining land productivity, driven by changing weather patterns, extended drought, and other causes. Solar farm development (especially with agrivoltaics) offers these landowners a way to keep their land in production, enrich the soil beneath the panels, create a pollinator-friendly habitat, and increase biodiversity.

How Does Pivot Mix Solar and Agriculture?

The particular landscape of any given solar farm will predetermine what is possible in terms of agrivoltaics. Similarly, we will always cater our efforts to the landowner’s unique logistical needs and preferences. For instance, Pivot always conducts environmental, archaeological, and cultural resources surveys; we also ensure that our projects comply with all local wildlife and wetland regulations. Additionally, all of our projects are registered on DriftWatch to ensure no pesticide drift or application on the property.

Throughout construction, our primary goal is to minimize our impact on the land. We stick to low-till construction practices whenever possible and refrain from leveling to maintain healthy topsoil. Additionally, we border the site with wildlife-friendly fencing that is designed to keep out all animals large enough to damage the equipment (including humans).

At the early stages of our projects, we often plant Fuzz and Buzz, a seed mix of native grasses – taking into consideration the site’s elevation, water levels, and more – to support soil moisture and forage productivity. When possible, we replace fossil-fuel powered mowing techniques with sheep grazing (as long as it is deemed safe for the sheep). It is worth noting that the plants grown from this seed mix are compatible with animal grazing. Additionally, we will add beekeeping and honey production to certain sites, creating pollinator-friendly habitats.

The addition of agrivoltaics is seamless from the landowners perspective. Pivot is responsible for identifying and managing the relationships with all graziers and/or beekeepers, and matching them up with the local landowner.

At the end of the solar lease, thanks to agrivoltaic practices, we return the site to the same, or better, condition before development. We establish a decommissioning plan for every project, which includes recycling and/or reusing solar equipment when possible.

Agrivoltaics Maximizes the Benefits For All

Agrivoltaics encompasses a wide range of benefits, enriching the soil beneath our panels, creating a pollinator-friendly habitat, increasing biodiversity, and providing the hosting communities with long-term environmental, economic, and educational benefits. The development of solar projects supports jobs in construction, engineering, operations, maintenance, and more. This job creation also has downstream positive effects on the local economy, as solar workers will shop at local businesses. Lastly, developers often offer local schools, universities, colleges, and community organizations the opportunity to visit and tour the finished site to see firsthand how communities across the nation are producing local, American-made power. 

If you are interested in learning more about agrivoltaics or wish to support the development of a solar site in your neighborhood, reach out to us today.

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