Jack’s Solar Garden—a community farm that grows under 32,000 solar panels and sells 1.2 megawatts of power back to the local grid in Longmont, Colorado—began nearly 50 years ago as a hay-producing operation in Byron Kominek’s family. But due to increasing corporate competition in the agricultural industry, the poorly profiting farm was in jeopardy, prompting Kominek to turn to solar infrastructure. In creating his unconventional solar garden (only a dozen farms in the US experiment with agrivoltaics), Kominek not only eased tensions between renewable energy developers and farmers over land use, he also opened the door for sustainable, water-efficient farming—a milestone feat given the mega-droughts plaguing the western US. Under solar panels, crops need 50% less water, while shade from the panels improves soil health and lessens evaporation, allowing Jack’s Solar Garden to grow all kinds of vegetables, even in the colder months. Learn more about the farm from NPR.
Image courtesy of Kirk Siegler/NPR