West Virginia Researchers to Implement Agrivoltaics on Small Cattle Farms

Researchers at West Virginia University are embarking on an exciting project to combine agriculture and solar energy on small cattle farms. With $1.6 million in funding from the US Department of Energy, the team aims to explore how this innovative approach, known as agrivoltaics, can benefit both farming and the environment.

Project Overview

This initiative is part of a larger $71 million effort by the Department of Energy to boost the solar supply chain through research and development. The West Virginia team will look at how agrivoltaics affects crop production, livestock, and habitats for pollinators.

They’re partnering with Appalachian Renewable Power (ARP), which will handle the design and installation of the solar systems, while the university focuses on studying the impact on soil, grasses, and cattle.

Research Goals

The researchers plan to install traditional flat solar panels as well as bifacial solar cells, which are designed to prevent water runoff that could disrupt soil hydrology. By collecting and analyzing soil samples from pastures with and without solar panels, they hope to determine how these panels affect pasture ecosystems.

“Our goal is to install some solar panels and then study how the animals perform in that environment,” explained Matt Wilson, professor of animal sciences and the lead researcher on the project. “From there, we can make recommendations for farmers who are interested in this technology.”

Potential Benefits

Integrating solar technology could provide farms with a new source of income and make agriculture more attractive to younger generations.

Statistics show that 68% of farmers in West Virginia need additional income because they can’t rely solely on agriculture. Wilson believes that agrivoltaics offers a high-tech, multi-revenue stream opportunity that could change this.

Earlier this year, Lucy Bullock-Sieger, vice president of strategy at Lightstar Renewables, talked about the potential for agrivoltaics to revolutionize agriculture in the United States, highlighting its promise for a sustainable and profitable future.

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