I’m a solar development professional (and MIT alum) in Boston working on an innovative approach to utility-scale solar power development that combines farming with ground-mounted solar. The idea is that you raise the racking high enough to allow enough room for farmers, equipment, and animals to roam freely, and space the panels so as to allow enough light in between to farm. We are working on an innovative open-source design / modeling tool that will allow the solar development and farming community to simulate the % shade per square foot in order to optimize (i) solar power design, (ii) sunlight penetration, and (iii) spatial planning within a solar array for different crop types and power densities. The goal is to make it easier for farmers to plan for different crop types (e.g. spatially, temporally) over the 20+ year life of a solar farm.
In theory, community gardens or small and large plots alike could host large scale solar energy systems to power a microgrid, export energy as community solar, or assume a behind-the-meter approach all while allowing for farming to continue underneath. We are releasing an open source design tool in the coming month that will allow farmers and the solar community to co-design projects.
There are plenty of possibilities here in terms of evolving utility-scale solar design toward functioning as, in and of itself, an agricultural structure depending on the farming business model. We are developing a significant amount of projects in this regard in MA in the coming year and it would be great to share our work with individuals interested in this topic.
If so, feel free to PM me.