Follow the Sun tour highlights practices that combine agriculture with solar

Environment
Farm and Food

On Aug. 4, Center for Rural Affairs staff were on hand for a solar tour near Ramsey, Minnesota focused on examining the benefits of combining agriculture and solar energy, a practice referred to as “agrivoltaics.” 

The day-long tour included stops at three sites, where participants saw firsthand how beneficial practices such as grazing, beekeeping, and the use of native vegetation and pollinator habitat are being implemented in combination with solar energy production.

The tour was organized by the AgriSolar Clearinghouse, a National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) project focused on providing resources and technical assistance, connecting stakeholders, and supporting the growth of the field of agrivoltiacs. The work of the clearinghouse is carried out by a large group of national partners, including the Center.

During the tour, staff shared the Center’s work around clean energy and the impacts of such development on rural communities. 

The clearinghouse, funded by the Department of Energy, will offer about a dozen “Follow the Sun” tours across the country over the next two years. 

Stacie Peterson, energy program director at NCAT said the tours offer the public an opportunity to visit agrisolar sites, talk with farmers, ranchers, landowners, and researchers about the projects, and network with the agrisolar community. 

“These tours showcase what is possible and help build the resources, network, and enthusiasm needed to create successful agrisolar projects around the country,” Stacie said. 

As demand for solar energy continues to grow, agrivoltaics offer an opportunity to maximize usage of land allocated for solar projects. The co-location of solar and agriculture offers opportunities for conservation, food production, increasing pollinator habitat, and adding additional farm revenue streams while producing affordable renewable energy.

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse has a library of more than 500 peer-reviewed articles, a media hub featuring videos, podcasts, and news, and a user forum to directly connect people interested in agrivoltaic development. More information can be found at agrisolarclearinghouse.org.

Feature photos by Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher