How would you define Agrovoltaics? Generally, the practice of combining agriculture and photovoltaics has been gaining momentum, and holds significant potential for multiple benefits that are critical for both the environment and society. In a recent interview, Dan French, the Executive Producer of the Solar Farm Summit, discussed his work in agrivoltaics, a practice that merges solar energy production with agricultural activities on the same land. French, known for transforming brownfields into ‘bright fields’ and for spearheading the agricultural tax movement, outlined the benefits of agrivoltaics. These include increased crop yields, improved soil health, and providing a habitat for pollinators.
He pointed to several obstacles that impede wider adoption of agrivoltaics, such as high initial costs, lack of knowledge, and policy challenges. French underscored the importance of community engagement in gaining approval for solar projects and averred that agrivoltaics could help to address local concerns.
Drawing from his experience at BP, French shared insights on real estate and brownfield development, emphasizing the relevance of engaging stakeholders and defining clear end goals. He suggested that this ‘Brownfield playbook’ could be applied to solar development.
French expressed optimism for the potential of agrivoltaics in revitalizing rural jobs and small farms, and sees it as a key component of a broader agricultural and land use renaissance in sync with the clean energy transition. He also emphasized the significance of agrivoltaics in mitigating climate effects such as flash droughts and dust bowls. Furthermore, French referred to a study by University of Arizona Professor Greg Barron-Gafford that highlighted the potential for increased agricultural yields with reduced water usage under solar panels.
Join us in Richmond August 31st for the Summer Shindig Dan and Nico discuss in the episode.