Greenskies Is Growing More Than Just Solar Across Connecticut
Agricultural Co-use Approved for Greenskies Solar Farms in Orange and East Windsor
North Haven, CT (February 1, 2022) – Connecticut-based Greenskies Clean Focus is helping to bring farming to solar fields across Connecticut. Following the recent green light from the Connecticut Siting Council, two new Greenskies' dual-use solar power generation and agricultural co-use projects will break ground later this year in Orange and East Windsor, CT.
"Greenskies is excited to support a growing community of forward-thinking farmers across Connecticut," said Stanley Chin, President and CEO of Greenskies. "Agrivoltaics is an opportunity for local farmers to contribute to an emerging field that has so many positive implications for the future of agriculture and renewable energy in an increasingly volatile climate."
Agrivoltaics, sometimes called agrisolar, is the strategic co-location of solar photovoltaics (PV) and agriculture in the same area. Solar can offer many valuable benefits to farmers, including increased water efficiency, protection from heat stress, and extended growing and grazing seasons. The practice of agrivoltaics at ground-mounted solar farms has been in place for decades around the world and is now gaining popularity in the US.
According to research from the Michigan Technological University and the US Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories, "the impact of solar development on land will be diminished by siting PV in a manner that is compatible with multiple uses."
In Orange, a 2.9-megawatt solar farm will occupy around 6-7 acres of land at Treat Farm, off of Old Tavern Road. This prime farmland soil is ideal for organic vegetable growth and sustainable farming practices. The growing beds will consist of approximately 34-rows of 14-foot wide aisles between linear rows of solar panels. Greenskies plans to complete this solar installation by the fall of 2022 and anticipates that the spring of 2023 will be its first growing season.
The solar array in Orange will act as a distributed energy resource facility benefiting the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) thanks to a virtual net metering (VNM) agreement. VNM allows CSCU to apply the energy generated at a remote site against its energy consumption at other locations for cost savings.
In East Windsor, a 5-megawatt solar farm will occupy around 20 acres of land at Mulnite Farms, off of Miller Road. The solar array will be arranged in linear rows separated by a 16.5-foot wide aisle with a ground clearance of approximately 3-feet. Greenskies intends to contract a sheep farmer, which will provide a flock of sheep for solar grazing and serve as our solar shepherd. Solar grazing with sheep can replace mowing and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Beginning in the spring of 2024, sheep will graze throughout the fenced solar array through the fall each year. Sheep will graze on forage and pollinator-friendly mix of wildflower and grasses growing within the fenced solar array. The sheep will rotate through an internal system of paddocks designed to prevent overgrazing and optimally fertilized pastures.
The project in East Windsor is part of the Connecticut Shared Clean Energy Facility (SCEF) Program for shared solar. The statewide SCEF Program expands solar access to people in the community who may not be able to install a solar system at their home or business for various reasons, like renters. The SCEF program also increases access to clean energy for low- to moderate-income customers. The energy generated by the East Windsor solar array feeds into the electric grid, and subscribers to the program receive credit for their share.
Both projects have been approved in unanimous votes from the CT Siting Council and received endorsements from the State Department of Agricultural for not having any negative effect on the farmland soils beneath the projects. Bringing together these otherwise competing land uses in a mutually beneficial arrangement is a great accomplishment. The projects simultaneously protect and improve valuable soil for future generations and produce renewable energy that is needed now. The improved soil and vegetation growth is also expected to sequester more CO2 than the land would otherwise in previous uses.
Greenskies, Connecticut's top commercial solar developer, has spoken with several interested parties for each property but has not formally engaged anyone to farm them yet. Both Orange and East Windsor will support solar and agricultural activities for an anticipated service life of 20 to 30 years.
"For crops, like vegetables, or livestock, like sheep, to coexist with solar has so much potential," said Chin. "The idea is to create a mutually beneficial environment for agricultural activity and solar energy production."
About Greenskies Clean Energy
Greenskies Clean Focus offers a full suite of renewable energy solutions to commercial, public sector, and utility energy users throughout the US. Our vertical integration delivers the most cost-competitive solar, battery storage, and low carbon solutions. From beginning to end, our customers work with a single delivery team. Greenskies originates, develops, constructs, and operates, while Clean Focus finances and owns the systems. For more information, please visit www.greenskies.com
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