- Iowa State University and Ideal Energy have inaugurated the Alliant Solar Farm, an agrivoltaics research project.
- The project received a four-year, $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
- The research aims to study the combination of crops and solar power to optimize land use and benefit local communities.
- Students will plant crops under solar arrays of various configurations to study their performance.
- To test different growing conditions, the solar field is designed in two parts, with varying heights and configurations.
In a groundbreaking initiative, Iowa State University (ISU) and Ideal Energy have launched the Alliant Solar Farm, an agrivoltaics research project. The project aims to explore the combination of crops and solar power to optimize land use and benefit local communities. The research project was inaugurated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, October 19.
The project received a four-year, $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy through the Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale (FARMS) program. ISU was one of only six recipients of the $8 million program. Horticulture and agriculture students will plant crops to study their performance under solar arrays of various heights and configurations. Engineering students will review solar production data to see how various crop plantings impact solar production.
Leadership and Collaboration
The research team is led by Ajay Nair, Associate Professor of Horticulture; Matt O’Neal, Professor in Plant Pathology, Entomology, and Microbiology; and Anne Kimber, Director of the Electric Power Research Center. “As renewable energy grows, it’s important to find opportunities for these projects to benefit people, beyond just providing renewable electricity,” said Anne Kimber, co-principal investigator.
Solar Field Design
Ideal Energy designed the 1.757 MW DC / 1.375 MW AC solar field in two parts. One part is an 811 kW DC fixed-tilt solar array facing south, and the other is a 946 kW DC single-axis active tracker. The solar panels on the site are bifacial, meaning they generate power from both sides.
Researchers plan to explore which crops thrive in a modified solar microclimate. They intend to plant vegetables, fruits, and pollinator habitats and study how solar site maintenance impacts cultivation. “Growing these crops under and around a solar farm on a scalable basis is different than just growing them. We want to demonstrate that’s possible,” said Ajay Nair, lead principal investigator.
Image provided by Ideal Energy