SCEINCE

Can solar gardens stimulate traditional renewable energy agriculture?

The agricultural industry uses too much energy both for itself and for the Earth. To put it in numbers, agriculture uses approximately 21 percent energy for food production, which is equivalent to 2.2 quadrillion kilojoules of energy each year. Moreover, about 60 percent of the energy used in agriculture goes to gasoline, diesel, electricity and natural gas.

Here come the agrovoltaics. A system in which the solar panels are installed at a high altitude so that the plants grow under them, avoiding the harmful effects of too much sunlight while using the same ground. The shade that these panels provide reduces the water used in agricultural processes, and the extra moisture that the plants release helps to cool the panels in return, production to 10 percent more solar energy.

The US Department of Energy’s InSPIRE project aims to demonstrate cost-cutting opportunities and environmental compatibility. solar energy technologies. To achieve this, DOE typically recruits researchers from various laboratories across the country in addition to local authorities and industry partners. Like Kurt and Byron Comineck, a father-son duo from Colorado who are the founders of Jack’s Sunny Garden in Longmont, Colorado, the largest commercially active agrovoltaic system in the United States.

Study of the advantages of an agrovoltaic system

The site is home to numerous research projects, including crop production, pollinator habitat, ecosystem services and grazing grass for grazing. The 1.2 MW solar garden also generates enough energy to power more than 300 homes thanks to its 3,276 solar panels at a height of 6 feet and 8 feet (1.8 m and 2.4 m).

Through Jack’s solar farm, the Cominec family turned their 24-acre family farm, purchased by their grandfather Jack Stingery in 1972, into a model garden that can produce energy and food in harmony through solar energy.

Byron Kominek said: “We could not build this agro-volt system without the support of our community, from the Boulder County government, which allowed us to build the solar network with a forward-looking land use code and clean energy-oriented regulations for to the companies and residents who buy electricity from us ”, to National Laboratory for Renewable Energy, and added that “We fully appreciate all those who have contributed to our success and who speak kindly of our efforts.”

According to the InSPIRE project, these solar gardens can provide positive benefits for soil quality, carbon storage, rainwater management, microclimatic conditions and solar efficiency.

Jordan McNack, principal researcher for InSPIRE, said: “Jack’s Solar Garden provides us with the most comprehensive and largest agri-voltaic research site in the country, while providing other access to food and educational benefits for the surrounding community … serves as a model that can be replicated for greater energy security and food security in Colorado and the nation. “





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