Solar farms pack more than panels

The naming convention for solar installation locations, called ‘solar farms’, may be a more apt label than originally intended. University researchers from the United States, Germany, and other countries abroad are exploring the addition of agriculture to solar farm sites, and to overwhelmingly positive results so far. Jordan Macknick, energy-water-land lead analyst with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), offered his view on the innovative experiment, saying “Solar development is happening on a massive scale as lands are being converted from agricultural land or unused land into solar projects. That represents an amazing opportunity to improve our agriculture and improve our food security while developing energy at the same time.”

A veritable triple win scenario. Pilot projects ranging from the diverse climates of states and countries including Arizona, Massachussetts, Germany, China, Croatia, Italy, Japan and France have met positive results across all metrics: agriculture, energy, and wildlife habilitation. The days of turf grass and gravel bottoms to solar farms may very well soon be at an end. It seems that the question of efficiency that renewable energy research so often poses is beginning to take root in other fields. Devoting separate space for agriculture and energy makes no sense at all when both of these vital resources can share in the same location. And if you’re worried about solar panels depriving crops of much needed sunlight, worry no longer. That box has already been checked. In fact, some researchers found that certain crops may grow even better than regularly when planted near solar panels.

With all the benefits of this new union between energy and agriculture, you’re surely waiting for the catch by now. But, surprisingly enough, there’s really no catch to be had. While cities, skylines, and energy production facilities have a beauty of their own, at best it can only be called a simulacrum of nature’s truly astounding sights and sounds. These renewable energy farms are now bringing mother nature’s bounty back into the neighborhoods of humanity. Becoming themselves a stark reminder of the irreplaceable wildlife that renewable energy seeks to protect. And the timing could not be more appropriate.

Traditionally proven cash cow energy sources like fossil fuels continue to push past concerns over the environment. As an example, Total is still fighting hard for offshore drilling blocks in Brazil near the mouth of the Amazon river, a site where coral reefs were found blooming just this decade. Don’t get me wrong, the energy provided from fossil fuel energy sources is required to keep the world online in our current day and age. But expanding these scientifically proven as harmful energy inlets in areas that could end in environmental catastrophe is one of the most short-sighted proposals I’ve heard.

Tangents aside, the marriage of agriculture, renewable energy, and wildlife protection is sure to change many people’s perspective on what’s more important: a quick buck, or the building blocks towards a better future. In the end, the decision is yours.

 

Article inspired by Frank Jossi. Read his write up here.

 

Written by: Chris Stomberg

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