Cattle agrivoltaics on US ranch


From pv magazine USA

An Oregon State University study shows that most of the prime, flat land near grid load is already in use as farmland, growing food or ranching livestock. In many US markets, including the Pacific Northwest, agrivoltaics is a solution for the food versus energy transition dilemma.

Agrivoltaics provides benefits for the farmer or landowner, the project developer and local communities. Ranching holds particular promise in the agrivoltaics community. It creates better soil composition for cows, sheep and other farm animals to graze, while creating a more natural soil composition around the panels, according to the Oregon State study.

David McFeeters-Krone, a founder of Rute Foundations and developer of a cattle farming agrivoltaics project in eastern Oregon, toldpv magazine USA that his development, Bear Valley Solar Pasture, LLC, is currently engaged with a fourth-generation cattle grazer in Grant County, Oregon. The project is receiving oversight from Oregon State University’s agrivoltaics program for land use management, water and soil studies on the farm’s site.   

The farmer, Jack Southworth was previously approached by an undisclosed large solar developer interested in taking over the farm as a whole, McFeeters-Krone recalls. With cattle revenue at a base rate of about $10 per acre, the farmer did not want to exclusively lease the entire ranch even though solar sited in the same area could produce $700 to $1,000 per acre from added revenue.  

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Southworth Brothers Ranch runs a total of 650 cows and calves, and 600 yearlings, said the developer.

In October 2022, Southworth reached out to Serkan Ates, who studies pasture and grazing management at Oregon State in conjunction with Chad Higgins, an associate professor who heads the university’s agrivoltaics program, the developer said.  By early 2023, the developer was doing demonstration projects with Oregon State and began working with Southworth on his ranch.

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