How agrivoltaics will be used in the Mammoth North Solar project

NOW: How agrivoltaics will be used in the Mammoth North Solar project

STARKE COUNTY, Ind.-- The Mammoth North Solar Project went online Tuesday as leaders flipped the symbolic switch to turn on the 400-megawatt solar farm in Starke County.

At a time when some communities fight what they call industrial solar, worried about the depletion of prime farmland, leaders with Doral Renewables, LLC say the land will still be cultivated using a method called "agrivoltaics."

"We're doing something very special with our solar project. We're bringing traditional farming back to these farm fields," said Nick Cohen, President and CEO of Doral. "We're bringing sheep and crops to the solar field, so we're integrating them."

Agrivoltaics is the term for the dual use of land for agriculture and solar. How does it work? Well, over the 13,000 acres of solar fields in the Mammoth project, only about 20 percent of that land has solar, the rest is green space.

Doral confirmed 75 lease agreements with landowners, including farmer Norm Welker.

"We're going to grow food underneath these solar panels," said Welker. "This will be a better, more economical way to farm. Rural crop farming is a tough game."

For farmers like Scott Fritz, a fifth-generation farmer in Pulaski County, solar is the future.

"Back in the day, farmers grew oats and hay to provide energy for the transportation system. Today, we provide a lot of ethanol for transportation. So, the future, I believe, is providing electricity," Fritz said.

He is embracing the idea of agrivoltaics

"I have started a sheep herd. So we might actually be grazing sheep underneath those panels," said Fritz. "I've farmed long enough to know there's always change."

This is just phase one of three phases for the Mammoth North Solar Project, which will ultimately produce 1.3 gigawatts of energy. That's enough to power roughly 250,000 households.

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