Fields of solar panels are increasingly common across the country. And people are exploring new ways to use the land under and around the arrays.
Some farm vegetables. Others graze sheep or grow pollinator plants and keep bees. The approach is called agrivoltaics.
“We’re taking agricultural practices, and now solar … and basically just putting them together,” says Andy Bingle, the education director at the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center.
The learning center is based at a solar farm in Longmont, Colorado, that doubles as an agrivoltaic research site.
Scientists there are studying which crops grow best under solar panels, how plants can improve solar efficiency, and more.
Members of the public can learn about agrivoltaics there, too. Bingle’s organization runs tours for school groups, with the goal of inspiring students “to think about sustainability solutions in a different way,” he says.
The learning center also invites community leaders and elected officials to tour the site. Bingle says their buy-in is important for funding research and developing policies that support agrivoltaics.
So he wants to help as many people as possible see the farm in action and get excited about the options for growing food and renewable energy together.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media