Could working farms sprout solar power, in addition to producing crops? What’s more, could solar arrays actually aid in the production of crops? Those are questions the new “Solar Double Cropping” project in Pittsboro, N.C., is designed to answer.
This joint effort between Miraverse Power and Light, Piedmont Biofuels, Southern Energy Management and Piedmont Biofarm consists of an elevated 92.16-kilowatt solar array that will generate electricity above the north field of Piedmont Biofarm while sheltering partial-shade-loving sustainable produce below. (The nine-foot clearance of the solar photovoltaic system was designed specifically to encourage the growth of crops that crave partial shade.)
While wind farms and food farms have long profitably coexisted on the double cropping model – a term taken from such collaborations – this is believed to be the first such conjunction of solar power and agriculture. Lyle Estill of Piedmont Biofuels noted that in some jurisdictions, solar installations are being banned on prime farmland. “We need clean energy. And we need sustainable food,” Estill said in a statement. “This installation will enable both.”
The 288-panel photovoltaic system is being installed by Southern Energy Management (SEM), a local company versed in utility-scale solar arrays. “We love this project because it challenges us to think about land use, climate change and where our food comes from, all at the same time,” said SEM co-founder Maria Kingery. A ribbon cutting for the array will be held at Piedmont Biofuels Eco-Industrial Park on October 21.