U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers have partnered with the Black Farmers’ Collaborative as part of the Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) Expert Match program to bring clean energy technology to Florida farms. With this program, researchers provide short-term technical assistance that addresses clean energy goals and helps lay the foundation for implementing agrivoltaics – the utilization of solar panels to benefit crops and livestock.
The researchers have helped the Black Farmers’ Collaborative design solar projects, create implementation plans, and prepare to apply for funding. They also provided a guide that will help the collaborative determine which type of solar to install, assess each building’s readiness for solar panels, understand the regulations that affect solar installation, secure solar contractors, maintain the solar systems, and understand how to balance installation costs, energy output, and crop production.
With this guidance, the Collaborative installed solar panels on a demonstration farm in Monticello, Florida, and began preparations to install solar panels on houses of worship and other commercial-scale buildings in communities across the state. They are also looking to partner with correctional facilities to train formerly incarcerated residents how to build, install, and maintain solar panels.
“All of these projects, we’re expecting them to do more than what the focus is,” said Saundra Johnson Austin, member of the Black Farmers’ Collaborative and President and CEO of Charis Consulting Group. “We’re expecting them to have legs – a rippling effect.”