Black Farmers Collaborative

NREL Partners With Black Farmers’ Collaborative To Plan Solar Panels for Florida Farms and Churches

July 13, 2023 | By Sarah Meehan On Cetta Barnhart’s demonstration farm in Monticello, Florida, she grows citrus trees, leafy greens, and other produce that often goes to the community-supported agriculture project she founded, Seed Time Harvest Farms. Soon, there will be a new addition on her property: solar panels. Barnhart’s farm is one site where U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers are helping the Black Farmers’ Collaborative further plans to incorporate clean energy technology on farms and in communities. On top of helping Barnhart scope out plans to integrate solar panels on her farmland—a concept called agrivoltaics, in which solar panels benefit crops or livestock around them—researchers also helped the community lay the foundation for installing solar panels on houses of worship in and around Bealsville, Florida—a town about 25 miles east of Tampa. They hope the concepts will serve as models for generating solar energy throughout the state. “I had already looked into doing solar on my property and was just looking at it to have solar as the backup,” Barnhart said. “But when we started talking as a team and then we found out about the agrivoltaics portion [and] how that can be incorporated into farming, it really brought forth a bigger and better opportunity to not just benefit by having it but also sharing that with other farmers.” Agrivoltaic systems have the potential to not only increase income for farmers, she said, but also provide a chance to build wealth for future generations. The work was a part of the Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) Expert Match program, a U.S. Department of Energy initiative that pairs communities with researchers from national laboratories to provide short-term technical assistance to address clean energy goals. Bealsville and the Black Farmers’ Collaborative were among dozens of communities that applied for and received support for their energy goals through the program as of June 2023, and more communities are in the pipeline to work with researchers to address their local energy challenges. Read Full Article