The Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale (FARMS) funding program examines how agrivoltaics can provide new economic opportunities to farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry. Agrivoltaics is defined as agricultural production, such as crop production, livestock grazing, and pollinator habitat, that exists underneath solar panels and/or in between rows of solar panels.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced the $8 million FARMS funding opportunity on May 5, 2022 and the six selected projects on December 8, 2022.
These projects are studying different aspects of agrivoltaics to better understand how the practice can become more widespread. Projects are developing impact studies to examine how agrivoltaic designs affect both agriculture production and energy production, studying how agrivoltaics can integrate into existing solar farms, and developing resources that will lower the barriers of entry to agrivoltaics. Additionally, projects partner with agricultural extensions to help educate farmers on agrivoltaic practices.
SETO’s goal is to reduce barriers to utility- and community-scale solar energy deployment to enable more than 1 megawatt of agrivoltaics focused on crop growth and more than 10 megawatts of agrivoltaics focused on grazing or pollinators. Scaling up the co-location of solar energy and agriculture can reduce land-use conflicts and provide economic benefits to farmers and solar energy developers. This work also seeks to help farmers pursue climate-smart and sustainable agriculture and bring economic benefits to underserved communities in farming areas.
-- Award and cost share amounts are rounded and subject to change pending negotiations –
Iowa State University
Project Name: Leveraging a Public-Private Partnership to Address Technical and Socioeconomic Factors of Agrivoltaics Systems
Location: Ames, IA
DOE Award Amount: $1.8 million
Awardee Cost Share: $450,000
Principal Investigator: Ajay Nair
Project Description: This project is demonstrating and evaluating various approaches to food crop production and beekeeping at solar farms. The research team is deploying a 1.35 megawatt solar array on campus with a variety of design modifications, including tracking and non-tracking panels at varying heights, which will be used to identify impacts on energy, horticultural crops, and beekeeping production. The results of this research will be shared with project partners in the utility and solar space, and the university’s extension network will provide decision support tools and agrivoltaics training programs for farmers and other stakeholders in the state.
Ohio State University
Project Name: Agrivoltaics: Integrating Agricultural, Forage, and Livestock Production Systems in Utility Scale Solar Farms
Location: Columbus, OH
DOE Award Amount: $1.6 million
Awardee Cost Share: $550,000
Principal Investigator: Braden Campbell
Project Description: As solar grazing becomes an increasingly popular form of vegetation management at large-scale solar arrays, several research questions need to be answered about animal health and productivity on solar sites. This project will conduct livestock and hay production trials using precision agriculture technologies on an operating 180 megawatt solar site without modifications to the site design. The researchers will plant forage crops, like hay, and monitor animal behavior and forage production at the facility, quantifying yield, nutrient levels, impacts on solar operations, and impacts on soil health. Results from this research will inform solar vegetation management in Ohio and other states where grazing and hay production are important to rural economies.
Project Name: Agrivoltaic Systems for Diversified Agriculture: A Project to Increase Technical Understanding of Agrivoltaics and Develop Novel Outreach Strategies for Farms Near Culturally Diverse Metropolitan Areas
Location: Piscataway, NJ
DOE Award Amount: $1.6 million
Awardee Cost Share: $200,000
Principal Investigator: Ethan Schoolman
Project Description: This project team is developing strategies that will enable agrivoltaics to thrive within diversified agricultural landscapes, protecting farmers and farmland while also contributing to clean energy goals. The team is conducting trials at two solar array testbeds, where researchers are studying the growth of 11 different crops, grazing practices, and community perceptions of agrivoltaics. Additionally, this project will develop an agrivoltaics extension network that will connect extension staff with the project results and will help expand agrivoltaics across the Northeast.
Solar and Storage Industries Institute
Project Name: Developing Resources for Deploying Agrivoltaics at Scale
Location: Washington, DC
DOE Award Amount: $500,000
Awardee Cost Share: $50,000
Principal Investigator: David Gahl
Project Description: The Solar and Storage Industries Institute, along with partners representing the agriculture and utility sectors, is working to identify barriers to the implementation of agrivoltaics. The research team will survey members of national industry organizations and conduct on-the-ground case studies to better understand challenges to growth in the agrivoltaic sector, including increased costs, project risks, and liability issues. Research results will be used to produce case studies and guides for solar developers, farmers, and decision-makers.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Project Name: Agrivoltaics: Unlocking Mid-Market Solar in Northern Climates and Rural North America
Location: Fairbanks, AK
DOE Award Amount: $1.3 million
Awardee Cost Share: $150,000
Principal Investigator: Christopher Pike
Project Description: This project is studying community acceptance and adoption of multi-use solar farms in the unique agricultural and energy environment of northern climates. The project team will study the combined usage of land on an 8.5 megawatt solar array with four different high-value crops and quantify the economic impacts and benefits of both solar and agricultural operations. Results from this research will enable mid-sized solar projects to integrate agrivoltaics profitably and provide economic opportunity to both farmers and solar developers, particularly underserved and Native Alaskan populations.
University of Arizona
Project Name: Agrivoltaics Creates More Sustainable Energy, Food, and Water Futures for the Southwestern United States: Opportunities at the Megawatt Scale
Location: Tucson, AZ
DOE Award Amount: $1.2 million
Awardee Cost Share: $900,000
Principal Investigator: Greg Barron-Gafford
Project Description: This project examines how crop production and grazing can be conducted within existing photovoltaic plants without significant modifications to solar design. In three test plots embedded in a 121 megawatt solar site, the project team will conduct crop trials to understand agrivoltaics’ impact on water usage and crop performance in the arid Southwest while also hosting site visits with local farmers to showcase the potential of agrivoltaics. This research will produce resources and guidelines for farmers across the Western United States, including low-income, tribal, and Hispanic farmers, to increase implementation of agrivoltaics in their communities.
Learn more about the Solar Energy Technologies Office’s soft costs research, funding programs, and open funding opportunities.