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The Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 (SETO 2020) funding program supports projects that will improve the affordability, reliability, and value of solar technologies on the U.S. grid and tackle emerging challenges in the solar industry. This program funds projects that advance early-stage photovoltaic, concentrating solar-thermal power, and systems integration technologies, and reduce the non-hardware costs associated with installing solar energy systems.

On February 5, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would provide $130 million in funding for 55-80 projects in this program. Four of these projects will receive a total of $7 million to focus on siting solar energy systems with agriculture.

Approach

These projects will develop technologies, evaluate practices, and conduct research and analysis that enable farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural enterprises to gain value from solar technologies while keeping land available for agricultural purposes. These projects will focus on new system designs and technologies, such as novel mounting and racking designs or site configurations; developing co‐location models that help overcome soft cost barriers and realize additional value streams; and support research and analysis on the ecological or performance impacts of solar and agriculture co‐location, such as food production, water supply, soil resources, solar system energy production, and birds.

Objectives

These projects will work to facilitate and expand the co-location of solar and agricultural activities where it benefits the local community as well as industries. For this topic, co‐location is defined as agricultural production (i.e., crop or livestock production, or pollinator habitat) underneath solar panels, in adjacent zones around the solar panels, or both.

Selectees

-- Award and cost share amounts are subject to change pending negotiations --

National Center for Appropriate Technology

Project Name: The Agri-Solar Clearinghouse
Location: Butte, MT
DOE Award Amount: $1,600,000
Awardee Cost Share: $430,000
Principal Investigator: Stacie Peterson
Project Summary: This project is establishing an online national resource clearinghouse and technical assistance program for farmers, solar companies, and other stakeholders interested in co-locating solar and agriculture. The clearinghouse will include research findings, data, online tools, and other resources that address barriers to solar-agriculture co-location. The project will also connect participants through an online forum, mailing list, workshops, and farm tours to facilitate peer exchange and mentoring.

Silicon Ranch Corporation

Project Name: Integrated PV System Design and Management Platform for the Co-Optimization of Regenerative Cattle Grazing and PV Solar Generation
Location: Nashville, TN
DOE Award Amount: $1,800,000
Awardee Cost Share: $570,000
Principal Investigator: Michael Baute
Project Summary: This project is testing a novel design for a solar panel tracker and control system to accommodate pasture-based cattle grazing under the solar panels. The project will analyze the impact of the solar panels on cattle, solar equipment, and the grassland ecosystem under the panels. This novel design includes considerations for the time that cattle remain in each paddock and how the tracking system operates when cattle are grazing nearby.

University of Illinois

Project Name: Evaluation of Economic, Ecological, and Performance Impacts of Co-Located Pollinator Plantings at Large-Scale Solar Installations
Location: Chicago, IL
DOE Award Amount: $1,800,000
Awardee Cost Share: $470,000
Principal Investigator: Iris Caldwell
Project Summary: This project is examining the economic, ecological, and performance impacts of pollinator habitats co-located at five large-scale solar photovoltaic facilities (10 MW or larger) in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. The team will develop guidance and decision-making tools for solar-pollinator habitat projects, including a pollinator planting manual, cost-benefit calculator, native seed mix selection tool, and pollinator assessment tool. These tools will address critical stakeholder concerns, including project costs, return on investments, logistical needs, and site- or project-specific constraints.

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Project Name: Impacts of Dual-Use Solar on Crop Productivity and the Agricultural Economy in Massachusetts and Beyond
Location: Amherst, MA
DOE Award Amount: $1,800,000
Awardee Cost Share: $540,000
Principal Investigator: Dwayne Breger
Project Summary: The project will model the economic and social impact of solar-agriculture co-location on farms and surrounding regions. The team will assess crop productivity, soil health, and microclimatic conditions for a range of crops under various solar array designs project at eight operating commercial farms in Massachusetts. The team will also study public acceptance of solar-agriculture co-location and develop practical co-location management guidelines for growers, solar developers, and other relevant stakeholders.

Learn more about the SETO 2020 funding program and the project selections in the other topics.

Learn more about SETO’s other competitive awards.