Can agriculture and solar power exist in a mutually beneficial relationship? Yes, but for that to happen communities need to be deliberate in defining what agriculture looks like. Professor Gould introduces a new publication titled Planning & Zoning for Solar Energy Systems: A Guide for Michigan Local Governments (find the full pub here: http://extension.msu.edu/solarzoning) that can help communities develop a zoning ordinance that supports and encourages the type of ag solar projects they want. He will also focus on the land management concept of ‘dual use’. Dual use lies at the heart of making solar compatible with agriculture. Dual use is defined as a solar energy system that employs one or more of the following land management and conservation practices throughout the project site:
• Pollinator Habitat: Solar sites designed to meet a score of 76 or more on the Michigan Pollinator Habitat Planning Scorecard for Solar Sites (https://bit.ly/3mJ04Vs).
• Conservation Cover: Solar sites designed in consultation with conservation organizations that focus on restoring native plants, grasses, and prairie with the aim of protecting specific species (e.g., bird habitat) or providing specific ecosystem services (e.g., carbon sequestration, soil health).
• Forage for Grazing: Solar sites that incorporate rotational livestock grazing and forage production as part of an overall vegetative maintenance plan.
• Agrivoltaics: Solar sites that combine raising crops for food, fiber, or fuel, and generating electricity within the project area to maximize land use.
Dr. Charles Gould is a MSU Extension Educator who provides relevant expertise in the areas of renewable energy and energy conservation to Michigan farmers and agribusiness that enable them to be sustainable now and in the future. He has particular expertise in agrivoltaics, bioenergy crop production, small anaerobic digesters, implementing on-farm energy conservation measures, and creating value-added products from manure and bioenergy crops.
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