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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.  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.

In the state of Massachusetts, specific kinds of dual-use systems are known as “Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Units,” and can qualify for financial incentives under the state's SMART solar incentive program.

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:

  • Dual-Use Information:  CEE provides resources to farmers and developers considering dual-use systems.  Click here for more information.
  • ASTGU Application Review:  CEE and UMass Agricultural Extension staff jointly consult and provide review of draft Pre-Determination Applications for dual-use projects seeking to qualify for the Agricultural Solar Tariff Generation Unit (ASTGU) adder, available through the state's SMART solar incentive program.  To initiate this review, contact River Strong (gcstrong@umass.edu, 413-545-8513).  We will review the application with Agricultural Extension staff, and provide written comments, feedback, and recommendations within 10 business days.
  • New Research Initiatives:  CEE and UMass Agricultural Extension engage in new research with farmers, developers, and researchers to better understand the agronomic, physiological, ecological, and socio-economic impacts of dual-use solar and agriculture systems.  Contact River Strong (gcstrong@umass.edu, 413-545-8513) with questions about new research initiatives.
  • 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.  Click here for more information.