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A row of solar panels with farm building in the background.

Planting the seeds of knowledge at solar projects

Agriculture is a vital industry in the Midwest. According to the , the Midwest is home to more than 127 million acres of working farmland. Most of that land is corn and soybean crops for ethanol and livestock feed, but farmers also grow other grains, fruits and vegetables and raise livestock.

The agriculture industry and renewable energy generation have formed an essential partnership. In Wisconsin and Iowa, farmland is often the perfect home for wind turbines and solar arrays. A found the U.S. could meet its renewable energy goals by 2050 if it used less than 3% of the Midwest’s farmland.

Communities see the benefits from renewable development including:

  • Soil restoration. In a way similar to the Farm Service Agency’s , grass planted at solar projects can restore nutrients to the soil to make it more productive in future years.
  • Economic growth. Renewable energy project construction creates hundreds of jobs in communities and long-term operation provides shared revenue payments in Wisconsin and consistent replacement tax payments in Iowa.
  • Economic stability. Renewable projects operate for 20 or more years, allowing landowners to lock in long-term contracts that provide stability and portfolio diversification.

In addition, new studies are underway to further evaluate how renewables and agriculture can coexist.

Ongoing research at places like Iowa State University will tell academics and energy companies what agricultural activities – such as , and even – are feasible to perform in space shared with solar panels generating energy. This is called .

We have partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to install a 10-acre solar facility at its , with panels at different heights close together to test various factors side by side. Researchers have tested baseline soil quality to understand quantitative change to nutrient levels throughout construction and operation. Tracking the soil quality will significantly further knowledge on the topic when the project becomes operational next year.

Over the life of the project, research will undoubtedly advance in new directions and explore exciting possibilities to move the industry forward.

Helping to increase the available knowledge about how agriculture and renewable energy can benefit each other is another way we keep customers at the heart of everything we do. Learn more about this project at

Chris is a Communications Partner specializing in ײƵ’s renewable investments. Coming from a journalism background, he’s excited to tell the story of ײƵ’s Clean Energy Blueprint and other renewable trends in new and exciting ways.

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