Back to top

Researching the Agricultural and Economic Impacts of Dual-Use Solar

UMass Dual-Use Research

UMass Clean Energy Extension and its research partners – UMass Agricultural Extension, the UMass Cranberry Station, the UMass Department of Resource Economics, and the American Farmland Trust – are conducting a three-year research project to evaluate the Impacts of Dual-Use Solar on Crop Productivity and the Agricultural Economy in Massachusetts and Beyond.  The research work is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the Solar Energy Technologies Office Award Number DE-EE0009374.

The research team is collaborating with private solar developers and host farmers that are implementing dual-use operations at sites around the Commonwealth. The project launched in late 2021 and is exploring two main areas of research:

  • Impacts on crop productivity, soil health, cultivation practice, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), and microclimatic conditions across diverse farming systems and dual-use solar array designs, including fixed tilt and single-axis tracker layouts, and bi-facial modules
  • Impacts and implications for economic systems, including on-farm economics, agricultural economies, and the public welfare in Massachusetts and nationally

The project will culminate in the development of dual-use management guidelines, fact sheets, and comprehensive economic analyses. Research results and materials will be disseminated to growers, research communities, state and national policy agencies and laboratories, and agriculture and solar markets with the goal of achieving more market and regulatory certainty.

Project Advisory Committee (PAC) has been established to advise the UMass Dual-Use research team as the project moves forward.

Project Background

As Massachusetts makes progress toward its clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction commitments, solar development in the state has quickly accelerated, creating new challenges and opportunities for the state’s agricultural sector.  State policymakers seeking to balance needs for both energy and food production and reduce land use competition have been exploring the development of dual-use solar and agriculture systems, designed to allow for both productive farming and solar electricity generation on the same plot of land.  You can learn more about our other work with dual-use systems here.

Under a set of program guidelines intended to encourage dual-use innovation and implementation, the current state solar incentive program, Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART), provides for a $0.06/kWh incentive adder for qualifying dual-use projects, known as agricultural solar tariff generation units (ASTGUs).

However, a lack of robust research and information on (1) the agricultural productivity of these systems, (2) the economic impacts of dual-use systems on farms and farmers, and (3) the effect of these systems on the broader agricultural economy, have all led to important questions regarding where and how these projects might be effectively implemented here in Massachusetts, throughout the region, and across the country.

For more information, contact River Strong at, 413-545-8513.

This webpage will be updated regularly with new information as the project progresses.