Dual-Use Solar & Agriculture
"Dual-use" refers to agricultural production and electricity production from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels occurring together on the same piece of land. These combined systems are sometimes also referred to as "agrivoltaics," "agrisolar," or "co-location" of solar and agriculture. It is expected that in most cases individual crop yield (lbs/acre) or electricity output (kWh/acre) will be lower in dual-use systems than it would be if either activity was carried out alone, but that the combined value of crops and electricity produced will be equal to or higher than single-use of the land for production of crops or electricity alone.
UMass Research & Resources
UMass Amherst researchers, including Clean Energy Extension (CEE) faculty and staff, are engaged in a variety of projects related to "dual-use" solar and agriculture:
- Solar & Agriculture Information: CEE provides resources to farmers and developers considering dual-use and other types of solar PV systems on farms.
- ASTGU Application Review: In the state of Massachusetts, specific kinds of dual-use systems are known as “Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Units,” or ASTGUs, and can qualify for financial incentives under the state's SMART solar incentive program. CEE and UMass Agricultural Extension staff jointly consult and provide review of draft Pre-Determination Applications for dual-use projects. This fulfills the requirement to consult with UMass Extension before submitting an application to the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), seeking a Pre-Determination Letter to qualify for the ASTGU adder. To initiate Extension review, contact River Strong (email@example.com, 413-545-8513). We will review the application with Agricultural Extension staff, and provide written comments, feedback, and recommendations. A summary of projects reviewed from November 2018 through December 2021 is available here.
- Dual-Use Research: CEE and research partners within UMass Agricultural Extension, the UMass Cranberry Station, the campus’s Department of Resource Economics, and the American Farmland Trust are conducting a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to study the economic, social, and agricultural productivity impacts of dual-use solar and agriculture on farms and the state's agricultural economy. The research group is partnering with developers and farmers commencing dual-use operations around the state.
UMass Research Farm Trials: Research Professor Stephen Herbert of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture has been conducting research trials of vegetables grown beneath solar panels at the UMass Amherst Research Farm in South Deerfield. A summary of his 2016-2017 research results is available here; preliminary results from his 2018 research trials are available here.
Dual-Use Cranberry Research: UMass Cranberry Extension is pursuing new research to understand how solar PV panels affect cranberry growth and productivity.
For additional information about solar and agriculture, check out the following resources:
- AgriSolar Clearinghouse: This nationwide hub was developed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology to connect businesses, landowners, and researchers with trusted resources to support the growth of co-located solar and sustainable agriculture, also known as agrivoltaic development.
- InSPIRE's Low Impact Solar Guidebook: This website developed by the National Renewable Energy Lab provides guidance both on dual-use solar and agriculture systems and creation of native pollinator habitat.
Farmers Guide to Going Solar: The Solar Energy Technologies Office within the U.S. Department of Energy has put together a guide for frequently-asked questions regarding solar arrays on farms.