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Lightstar Renewables and American Farmland Trust partner to promote regenerative agricultural practices through agrivoltaics across the US
Traditional territories of the Massachusett and Pawtucket People / Boston, Massachusetts, March 14, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today, Lightstar Renewables announces their support of the American Farmland Trust’s (AFT) mission to save the land that sustains us by protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land. Through this partnership, AFT will use their Smart Solar ℠ principles to lend expertise and guidance to Lightstar on policy innovation, research, and farmer engagement to accelerate agriculturally compatible solar energy development, strengthen farm viability and safeguard land well-suited for farming and ranching. Lightstar aims to empower farmers to transition to more regenerative agricultural practices and adopt agrivoltaic solar — integrated farming and solar — in states such as New York, Maryland and Illinois.
There are compounding threats to farmland across the country. Between 2001 and 2016, residential and commercial development consumed 11 million acres of agricultural land. Another 18 million acres could succumb by 2040 in a business-as-usual scenario. Climate change and extreme weather events makes farming and ranching more challenging, with AFT’s research showing a significant swath of rainfed agricultural land will be less likely to support current growing systems by 2040. Additionally, the nation is in the middle of a historic intergenerational transfer as millions of acres of farmland change hands as today’s senior farmers retire, making it vulnerable to development.
Agrivoltaics offer a means to address these threats. The transition to renewable energy is necessary to help address climate change. Agrivoltaics allow for farming and energy production to co-exist, keeping farmland in farming. The agrivoltaics model can decrease water usage and improve soil health while promoting economic growth within local communities through farm viability, energy bill savings and job creation, driving the clean energy economy of tomorrow. AFT’s Smart Solar ℠ principles aim to accelerate the generation of solar energy but offer a blueprint for solar development that maximizes climate mitigation while minimizing impact on productive farmland and strengthening opportunities for farmers.
Lucy Bullock-Seiger, Vice President of Strategy, Lightstar, said, “We have a responsibility as solar developers to not just move swiftly towards the clean energy transition, but we must also take seriously the land impacts our projects can have. Solar does not need to exacerbate farmland loss, and our partnership with American Farmland Trust demonstrates our commitment to land stewardship and most importantly to keep farmers farming.”
“The agriculture industry has a pivotal opportunity to accelerate its clean energy transition, while enhancing farm and food security,” said Ethan Winter, AFT’s National Smart Solar Director. “We are excited to partner with Lightstar on this journey to unlock opportunities from agrivoltaics.” he added.
Lightstar’s dual-use solar projects allow for energy production in addition to crop cultivation and livestock grazing in and around the solar array. Farm owners hosting these projects earn a long-term and regular stream of income and farmers managing the agricultural operation receive a stipend to keep the land in production. These projects also provide tax revenue for local municipalities, help local residents reduce their energy bills, and increase energy independence and grid security. AFT provides agricultural landowners with the tools and skills to make informed decisions about solar development.
Lightstar is a community solar developer and long-term owner with a pipeline of over 800 Megawatts (MWs) of community solar farms in the US. Founded by a seasoned team of solar developers, our mission is to be good stewards of the land and the community that we serve. We are focused on leading in community solar development that is built with ecology and agricultural needs at the forefront, which in our mind is a key next phase of the clean energy transition.
About American Farmland Trust:
American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.
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From pv magazine USA Agrivoltaics solve at least two critical needs. Solar provides the renewable energy needed to mitigate climate change impacts while meeting global energy demand. And crops grown alongside solar help to feed the burgeoning global population, which is anticipated to grow to nearly 10 billion people by 2050, according to the United Nations. […]
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