Whelp, there goes the anti-solar neighborhood. A shrinking handful of US states have yet to join the solar power revolution, and the handful just shrank a little more now that Tennessee is adding a new 70-megawatt solar project to its stable of PV arrays. This particular project is also of interest because it sports a regenerative agriculture angle, and that could help spark more solar activity in a state where more than 40% of the land is farmland.
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Solar Power Plus Farming In Tennessee
For those of you new to the topic, regenerative agriculture refers to practices that build healthier soil and conserve water. Solar power comes into the picture through the fast-growing field of agrivoltaics, in which solar panels are raised a few feet higher off the ground than the typical array. Shade from the panels helps prevent evaporation, and the taller height enables farmers to continue farming within the solar array.
For the most part, agrivoltaic arrays host low-maintenance agricultural uses, such as grazing lands and pollinator habitats, though some growers are beginning to experiment with vegetable crops.
Tennessee’s agricultural scene is dominated by soybeans and corn, which do not lend themselves to agrivoltaic arrays, at least not until the robots take over. However, livestock is another leading use of farmland in Tennessee, and it could be possible for agrivoltaics to grab a toehold in the grazing space.
Solar Power Plus Mushrooms…And Cannabis!
Another up-and-coming crop in Tennessee shows a little more promise for agrivoltaics. If you guessed mushrooms, run right out and buy yourself a cigar. The Volunteer State is not particularly known for its mushrooms, but apparently the state’s Department of Agriculture is trying to get something going.
The solar angle comes in when you take a look over at Japan back in 2017, when the Tokyo firm Sustainergy hooked up with Hitachi Capital (now Mitsubishi Capital) and the company Daiwa House Industry in a plan to help farmers grow mushrooms on underused farmland, with an assist from solar power.
If you know what happened to that project, drop us a note in the comment thread. Meanwhile, solar industry stakeholders are speculating that the legalization of marijuana will enable more cannabis to be grown outdoors instead of hidden away indoors, so that’s another possible avenue for agrivoltaics.
Solar Activity Heating Up In Tennessee
Where were we? Oh right, Tennessee’s new solar power plant. A double-digit array of 70 megawatts might not sound all that impressive in the era of triple-digit and gigawatt-scale solar development, but it is a big deal in Tennessee.