Solar power occupies a lot of space – here’s how to make it more ecologically beneficial to the land it sits on

As societies look for ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change, large-scale solar power is playing a central role. Climate scientists view it as the tool with the greatest potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. In the U.S., the Department of Energy predicts that solar will account for nearly 60% of all new utility-scale electricity-generating capacity installed in 2024.

But ideal locations for solar development often overlap with croplands or grasslands used for livestock grazing. Typically, large-scale solar arrays are designed to maximize energy generation, without much consideration for the ecosystems in which they are placed.

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New Journal Article Published on Agrivoltaic Systems

Agrivoltaics can optimize the land use efficiency of solar energy by co-locating these sites of renewable energy development with other compatible land uses such as food production (crop production or livestock grazing) and biodiversity conservation through the establishment of solar-pollinator habitat.  


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UI’s Solar Farm 2.0 now a hotbed for new research

 The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s two solar farms have become a key part of campus’ clean energy supply. But the next frontier for researchers is exploring what sorts of pollinator plants, crops and wildlife can coexist with the photovoltaic arrays.. 

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National Grid Renewables announces commercial operation of 200 MW Prairie Wolf solar project in Illinois

Minneapolis, MN (December 17, 2021) – Today, National Grid Renewables announced the start of commercial operation for its Prairie Wolf Solar Project (Prairie Wolf), located in Coles County, Illinois. The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) located project boasts 200 megawatts (MW) of clean solar power and is contracted through a Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA) with Cargill. Prairie Wolf utilizes next-generation Series 6 thin film solar modules developed and produced by First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) and was constructed by SOLV Energy, formerly known as Swinerton Renewable Energy.

At the peak of construction, Prairie Wolf employed approximately 300 onsite workers. During operation, in addition to new onsite operations and maintenance jobs, Prairie Wolf will benefit local and statewide economies through the production of millions of dollars in new tax revenue and landowner income.

Read the rest of the press release here.

Solar Farm 2.0 Project Description

Solar Farm 2.0 is a 54-acre, 12.32 megawatt (MWdc) solar array on the South Farms of the  University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Located north of Curtis Road, between First Street and Dunlap Avenue near Savoy, Solar Farm 2.0 is producing approximately 20,000 megawatt-hours per year (MWh/year), bringing the total on-campus solar production to approximately 27,000 MWh/year. This project allows campus to achieve the 2015 iCAP objective 3.2 to produce at least 25,000 MWh/year by FY25 from solar installations on campus property.

Read the rest of the project description here.


With agrivoltaics, solar sites harvest more than just clean energy

Agriculture and clean energy have something in common: The best land for harvesting crops also happens to be the best space for harnessing solar power. To produce both, you need stable soil, open sky, and plenty of sunshine. Fortunately, the same land can be used for both simultaneously.

Agrivoltaics refers to the practice of utilizing a site for both solar photovoltaic power generation and agricultural activities. This dual land use not only contributes to a more sustainable future, it also provides bilateral benefits for each endeavor.

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EDPR completes construction of Riverstart, Indiana’s largest solar farm

EDP Renewables (Euronext: EDPR), the world’s fourth largest renewable energy producer, through its subsidiary EDP Renewables North America LLC, has completed the construction of the 200 MW Riverstart solar farm. The company closed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Hoosier Energy Cooperative, which will use the power generated by the solar farm to supply communities in central and southern Indiana and south-eastern Illinois.

Year 1 Project Update

In the first year of the project, the PHASE team commenced ecological and PV performance fieldwork at five large-scale solar sites, including plant diversity and abundance; observations of insect pollinators, birds, and bats; and environmental conditions under the panels.

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