Ecosystem Services, Specialty Crops, and Cultural Value of Agrivoltaic Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2023: $29,987.00
Projected End Date: 05/30/2025
Grant Recipient: Colorado State University
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Meagan Schipanski
Colorado State University


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants


  • Crop Production: alley cropping, cropping systems, drought tolerance, irrigation, multiple cropping, pollination, pollinator habitat, water management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Energy: solar energy
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, dryland farming, permaculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community planning, public policy

    Proposal abstract:

    Solar energy development is booming due to increasing module efficiency and decreasing costs. Much of the most desirable land for solar energy coincides with current agricultural land, which is leading to increasing conflicts over land use in agricultural communities. The primary goal of this research predoctoral fellowship is to improve development and management practices of agrivoltaics (integrated agriculture and solar energy systems) to enable economic diversification and intensification without sacrificing farmland quality. We will address this goal by: 1) Assessing the establishment phase effects on ecosystem services of tillage, irrigation, native and non-native perennial vegetation under a new solar array; 2) Evaluate microclimate specific planting designs to optimize yield of extractable medicinal compounds from medicinal herbs grown in agrivoltaic systems; and 3) Characterizing socio-cultural values and priorities of agricultural communities relevant to solar energy development and management. Outcomes from objective 1 include best management practices for relevant for small and large-scale agricultural producers to implement ecosystem service agrivoltaics for the preservation of farmland. Outcomes from objective 2 include best management practices for high value specialty crop production (medicinal herbs) primarily in small-scale agricultural operations. Outcomes from objective 3 include best practices for local and state policymakers developing zoning and regulations for agrivoltaics to accurately reflects the values and priorities of agricultural communities. Results will be disseminated to agricultural stakeholders through collaboration with the non-profit Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center to host a field day, a workshop, create a webpage, and a short video about the research results and recommendations.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objective 1: Identify best management practices for establishing ecosystem service agrivoltaics by assessing multiple seed mixes and irrigation systems at a newly established semi-arid agrivoltaic solar array.

    Research Objective 2: Identify best management practices for micro-climate specific planting designs of medicinal herbs in semi-arid agrivoltaic systems.

    Research Objective 3: Characterize socio-cultural values and priorities of farmers and agricultural landowners relevant to solar energy development and management to facilitate beneficial government policy and contracts between solar developers and farmers.

    Education Objective 1: Engage producers and disseminate best management practices identified by this project through a field day/workshop, creating a webpage hosting BMP factsheets and a short video.

    Education Objective 2: Create an interpretive sign to enhance public education and outreach tours of Jack’s Solar Garden conducted by the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center.

    Education Objective 3: Report the findings of this project to the scholarly community through journal publications, a conference presentation, and departmental seminar.


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.