Largest “agrivoltaic” research project underway in Colorado
Today, Solar FlexRack, a division of Northern States Metals announced that it supplied its tracker solution for Jack’s Solar Garden, a 1.2-MW community solar farm and the largest agrivoltaic research project in the U.S., located in Boulder County, Colorado. The solar project was designed and built by Namasté Solar.
Jack’s sits on five acres of farmland for the dual use of agriculture and solar energy production. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Colorado State University, and the University of Arizona, this project will be studying how best to grow wildflowers, pasture and prairie grasses, pollinator habitats, as well as crops, such as carrots, onions, tomatoes and squash that will all be planted this season underneath and around the solar array.
According to Solar FlexRack, Namasté Solar selected the company’s TDP Solar Trackers due to their versatility, as well as their smart backtracking, which reduces shading across rows and increases energy production. FlexRack said their solution enabled Namasté Solar to overcome the challenge of installing the trackers at several different heights to test the impact of various amounts of shade and sunlight on crop growth, while still maximizing solar energy yield.
Leveraging their expertise from prior agrivoltaic projects, Namasté Solar knew it was critical to avoid overly compacting the native soil, which could limit the planting of certain species. They overcame this challenge by maintaining strict drive lanes for heavy equipment and not using gravel on-site.
This agrivoltaic project has already become a national model of service and education. Along with the partnerships with agrivoltaic research institutions, Jack’s partnered with Audubon Rockies to plant their largest Habitat Hero in Colorado around the perimeter of the solar array – over 1,800 pollinator friendly perennials – in May 2020. They are also partnering with Sprout City Farms, who will manage crop production under the solar array as well as train the first agrivoltaic farmers in Colorado.
The farm also donates 2% of its energy production to low-income households in Boulder County and has an Artist on the Farm program to support local creatives. Students and community members have an opportunity to tour Jack’s to learn about agriculture, solar power and land use management through their new non-profit arm, the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center.
Learn more about Jack’s Solar Garden and agrivoltaics in the video below and share widely with the farmers you know.
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