Low-Impact Solar Development Incorporates Other Land Uses

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has posted an update on the Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment (InSPIRE) project that is exploring benefits and barriers of low-impact solar development. Rather than devoting solar energy sites solely to energy production, low-impact solar incorporates other land uses, such as providing pollinator habitat and allowing agricultural uses ranging from grazing to vegetable production. Low-impact solar development leaves topsoil in place beneath solar arrays and often plants native vegetation. The project has found that having vegetation in place to cool the ground can make solar panels perform better. Conversely, in hot climates, shade from solar panels can improve the water efficiency of vegetable production beneath the shade of the panels, a practice called “agrivoltaics.”