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Can agriculture and solar complement each other?

Solar panels are often placed on roofs, in farm fields, and on company land. However, many residents (and farmers) worry about the acreage large solar projects take up and how it leaves less land for farming.

To help solar generation and agriculture land better complement each other, Alliant Energy is investing in agrivoltaics – the study of crop or livestock production underneath or adjacent to solar panels. We are working with Iowa State University (ISU) and UW-Madison on cutting-edge projects that will advance research in this field.

Even though solar is one of the most cost-effective moves for our customers, we work diligently with willing landowners to locate projects in viable areas and address their concerns.

If farmers could continue to grow crops or allow livestock to roam around solar panels without drastically affecting the annual yield or quality, they may feel much more comfortable making the switch to solar.

Research goals

Our 10-acre project with ISU is located just south of Ames, Iowa, and aims to use tracking and non-tracking panels at differing heights to determine the effects on energy, crop and beekeeping production.

“As renewable energy grows, it’s important to find opportunities for these projects to benefit people beyond just providing renewable electricity. There’s good work to be done on this front, and we hope this research and demonstration will help identify the potential for communities to benefit from agrivoltaics,” said Anne Kimber, director of ISU’s Electric Power Research Center and a co-principal investigator for the DOE grant.

UW-Madison will conduct similar research on a roughly 15-acre site at its Kegonsa Research Campus.

“This project will provide the opportunity to demonstrate how solar energy and agriculture can be successfully integrated,” said Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education at UW–Madison. “In addition, the new array will enable students to do hands-on research while gaining a better understanding of how renewable energy can be embedded in a broader community setting.”

The projects are expected to last approximately 20 years, and the course of research may adjust over that timeframe as developments are made.

This is just another way we position ourselves as a leader in renewable energy and deliver on our purpose of building stronger communities. Learn more about these projects through our Alliant Energy® Customer-Hosted Renewables program.
Chris is a Communications Partner specializing in Alliant Energy’s renewable investments. Coming from a journalism background, he’s excited to tell the story of Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint and other renewable trends in new and exciting ways.

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