Agrivoltaics at Solar Farm 2.0

Illinois Facilities & Services is proud to support the implementation of Agrivoltaic research in Solar Farm 2.0. This project, titled, “Evaluation of Economic, Ecological, and Performance Impacts of Co-Located Pollinator Planting at Large-Scale Solar Installations,” will be a collaboration between F&S and the Energy Resources Center at University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). F&S will be providing this project with space and access to Solar Farm 2.0 where it will be implemented, as well as Solar Farm 1.0 where there are no pollinator supportive plantings. F&S will work with our power purchase agreement (PPA) partners for the solar farms to coordinate related research activities with the UIC project team.
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The project team, consisting of researchers from UIC, UIUC, and Argonne National Laboratories, will collect ecological data from transects during the growing season of the plants, and will also collect information about bird and bat use of the solar farm lands. The project will also receive support and help from F&S employees who have specialized knowledge in campus renewable energy projects, as well as help on the planning and implementation of the planting of pollinator-supportive seed mixes. F&S will provide feedback and review any materials that summarize the research on Agrivoltaics and will present them at advisory committee meetings. They have also invited the research group to a biannual webinar to discuss project status. Support from F&S will last for the duration of the project (3 years).

This research will focus on the benefits of planting compatible native and other flowering plants under and around solar arrays for pollinating insects, birds and bats, the potential for reduction of maintenance costs, and the effect on system efficiency. There has been other research that show that pollinator plantings may increase upfront project costs but also lower long-term operating and maintenance costs, reduce water consumption, improve panel efficiency and electricity production, and improve biodiversity and pollination services. However, there remains great uncertainty around the economic and ecological benefits as well as performance impacts of co-located agricultural production such as pollinator plantings, particularly on large-scale applications (≥10 MW).

Outcomes of this project include: (1) updated research on economic, ecological, and performance impacts of pollinator plantings at the large-scale solar site; (2) practical resources and decision-support tools to assist solar developers in making better-informed decisions on if, when, and how to incorporate pollinator plantings on projects; and (3) broad industry engagement and outreach to roll out the research findings and implementation tools.

F&S hopes that their contributions will help bring the project outcomes and expectations into fruition which will ultimately benefit many of the University’s sustainability goals, and lead to an increase in multi-functional solar arrays throughout the world.