Solar generation with farming

Gives you hope …

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That’s very positive thanks for posting @marknmt

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There are a lot of people exploring possibilities with this. Grazing animals is another alternative to growing plants. Some plants even prefer the shade of the panels or are not negatively impacted by the reduction in light, while improving the efficiency of the panels via reduction of operating temperatures (ironically solar panels are more efficient when cooler).

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One of the main advantages of solar is the ability to site the generation so close to the load.

When I see large solar arrays in a field somewhere I think: Oversubsidization.

In Arizona, the summer is viewed with the same dread that a New England farmer views the fall freeze. Rushing out to harvest tomatoes the third week of June before they stew on the vine is a concept unknown to most Americans.

I don’t doubt the story, but it’s not the norm.

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Interesting article, @marknmt. Thanks for posting!
This part made me cringe though:

he literally bet the farm in order to finance the roughly $2 million solar arrays.

“We had to put up our farm as collateral as well as the solar array as collateral to the bank,” he says. “If this doesn’t work, we lose the farm.”

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As long as we’re on the question of solar panels, I have one word: rooftops. OK, make that two words: vehicle roofs.

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There are a couple of EV with incorporated solar roofs and the Cyber truck will have as an option at least a solar tunnel cover. As cool as they are they never going to contribute enough be anything more then just a cool thing to have.

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I wonder. Allow 24 square feet per car and consider the millions of cars. I’d imagine (key word there!) that they’d add up.

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I am skeptical but thats not the same as rejectionist. The parts of the world that need this wont see it for years.

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Honestly 15 miles per day would cover 100% of my Monday-Friday commute with enough to spare to make up for Saturday and Sunday driving. For me I in the US where I would pay $1 per gallon equivalent at home, $2 at a super charger this feature it is just icing. On the other hand If I had to charge at Electrify America that would rise to $3+ equivalent. But if I where buying an EV for fuel savings then I would have to do it as much on charging options not just bonus features. That being said in the EU like Germany where you would be paying $4 per gallon equivalent saving 48% would make a big difference.

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I’m just being hopeful! No question in my mind that we could use more good news on the energy generation front - but it does keep coming.

Since lordkiwi said “rejectionist”, I think I’m in that camp. This is farmland. There’s massive parking lots that can have decks built over them. Then there’s the stores and their rooftops. I have concerns about any toxic stuff from the panels finding their way into people’s food. Plus it’s just an unsightly thing to put in a rural area.

There’s a lot to be said for your point of view. I don’t like the idea of covering thousands of acres of farmland with unsightly panels (I don’t like seeing acres of windmills, either, for that matter, but I like the electricity they produce). I would love to see every big box store topped with generative capacity and I love the ideal of shading cars in parking lots with panels!

Don’t know how big a concern toxic leaching would be, but we already know that producing solar generating panels causes its own problems, so we shouldn’t imagine they’re aren’t going to be complications.

But we keep on keeping on, ay?

Just to be clear, I’m not totally against intermingling the modern world with farming. My extended family’s farm is adjacent to a hydroelectric power plant, has some right of way for the high lines (which probably do seep some chemical through pressure treated poles), and there’s an underground gas pipeline running through it.

I understand there’d be added cost to putting up shaded parking decks, but it’d be worth it. Parking lots are already ugly. At least your car won’t cook in them if there’s some shade.

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Which, in addition to make the cars more comfortable and protecting their paint
and plastic, would even modestly reduce their need for air conditioning!

But as you can see, I’m your original optimist … guy needs to be careful about that.

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Solar Cells are solid state device. They can’t break and spill there contents. There is no liquid or semi solids to dissolve and leach into the environment. Under the acid conditions of a landfill those elements of concern can be extracted. But not all panels are made with toxic materials and even the ones that are would require serious physical destruction to even begin to contaminate an area.

I think your missing one of the take always however. Shade reduces evaporation and improve yield. You can do that with shade cloth or solar which is a win win. But I agree covered parking lots will make everyone happy except people with solar panels built into the cars.

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Joe, I greatly appreciate that you brought your opinion to the conversation on this topic. For some people, this point of view will absolutely be the way it is.

However, not everyone will feel that way. Oil wells and natural gas pads are also scattered throughout rural areas and I rarely hear anyone make comments about them unless they live next door, same as wind farms. I think solar panels will eventually become as much a normal part of the landscape as the other energy industries I mentioned.

Also, I imagine there will be resourceful farmers out there finding novel crops which coexist with solar farms. Look at a crop like currants or honeyberries or gooseberries. All of them could produce in lower light conditions and as far as I know they have a minimal domestic market and could possibly even push to warmer zones with the shade of solar panels. Win-win-win.

For what it’s worth, I get pretty excited about any solar farms I see on the map. I think that people are going to find lots of good ways to make food and power at the same time and it will be better for our country’s food security and energy independence together.

And to the point on toxic chemicals, I am very sure that runoff from newly paved roads, tar from shingles, microplastics from the synthetic rubber rubbing off of tires as cars drive on highways near farm fields, and countless other anthropogenic activities are more detrimental to growing crops than a stable, stationary solar farm. Silicone based panels have been around for many decades (I think since the 70s?) and I’ve never seen a study alluding to any sort of toxicity added to the environment by panels that are in operation. Please share if you have further information related to this, I would like to see any data collected.

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You guys are starting to convince me. My biggest argument against solar is land use. If solar can be done without using too much land, I am all for it.
Thanks for posting

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There’s no oil and gas production here, but there’s no shortage of reports in the news about people who live in places like rural Pennsylvania and who do not care for the oil & gas industry’s presence in their corner of the world. Not far from my area it was the wealthy who felt that wind turbines were too unsightly and successfully blocked construction of turbines in one of the best areas to do this on the East Coast. The Kennedy family was among those whose views of the ocean would have been affected. It took some years but the project is now going forward. Edit: It’s a different project. Cape Wind was different.

In the more immediate area (my town, around the county), they clear-cut forests to put up solar panels. It’s ugly and a stupid use of land for a number of reasons. The worst example is right at the Submarine base. They clear-cut forest right along the state highway to put up solar panels. This land is either adjacent to or very close to the base, and I am pretty sure the land is owned by the federal government. This is a submarine base that was almost closed because it was deemed too small! “Too small” but they can cut down all these acres of trees to put up solar panels… I guess there may be good reasons to have not put them on the rooftops of barracks and parking spaces on base, but they’re using land that could be used for better purposes. They did put solar panels up on the Navy housing across the street, where families live. Go and look at this field. It’s on Route 12 in Groton, CT right near the base. All of those solar panels sit on what was forest. Edit: Looking from Google Maps, they didn’t put panels up on the Navy housing near the panels. This housing, I believe, is for officers and their families. The housing for enlisted men and their families, which is on the other side of route 12, has the panels. That’s interesting.

It’s one thing to put solar up on the rooftops of the barns and on the houses, that’s fine. It’s a waste of perfectly good farmland to fill it up with solar when there’s all this land being used up in urban and suburban areas for pointless decadence. Fill up the farmland with solar panels, then transmit it into the urban areas. Just because you’re still growing some cabbage underneath some of these solar panels doesn’t mean the farmland isn’t being made less optimal for farming. The dairy farm that’s in my family certainly would have a hard time doing what they do with a bunch of solar panels in their fields.

One thing I’ve seen them put solar to good use for is putting them on some of the capped landfills around here. As far as houses go, it depends on where you are. In most areas of the state you can net meter and they have generous incentives. My municipal power company took away their incentives but even before they did that it was a bad deal, since they do not allow net metering. They’ll buy the power from you during peak times for very little. Solar’s good for them, not the one who installed it. It’s too bad. There’s a lot of houses (and stores, and parking lots) that could be filled up with solar panels if the incentives were good.

As far as toxic chemicals are concerned I do know what goes into them are toxic. If they won’t leach, OK. I find that hard to believe but I’m not an expert on these things. I don’t like houses going up on former farms. Solar panels are worse. Why generate so much solar power in the sticks when it can be generated closer to where the power is needed without polluting the environment or bothering people?

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Just my opinion, but solar panels are less ugly than oil wells and wind turbines. The natural landscape is best, but we do need energy generation. I took my son to Legoland in Florida this summer and they have a portion of their parking lot that is shaded with solar panels. They charge a premium to park your car there in the shade, but given how big the covered area was, they have to be producing quite a bit of power. Now if i were to design a system like this, i would also include some gutters and water storage.
Here in north texas it feels like there is a car wash on almost every other block, and most of them advertise they are run on recycled water. Most dealerships also run car washes (the place i bought my truck offers free washes daily for the life of my truck). If you throw up solar panels to cover the cars, keeping them cool, then collect the rain water, you are killing three birds with 1 stone.
That still leaves us with the biggest challenge to solar energy: storage. Until we have solid state batteries at an affordable price, solar will never take off in the way we need/want it to (i like the idea of clean renewable energy, but it has to work first and foremost). Solar panels are coming close with 20-22% efficiency. I think they were saying that it will be truly viable at 32% for large scale projects.
For my own home, i put panels on the roof, it isn’t pretty, but i get a few months a year with no electric bill, so more than a worthwhile trade-off to me.

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I thought my roof panels would be an eyesore, but I think it looks pretty good and they almost match the dark grey of our shingles. The company we had to install them did a great job.

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