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When solar power was first introduced, it was so expensive for households. Since then, prices of solar panels have fallen and solar power is considered as the cheapest kind of energy in the market. Instead of growing hay and alfalfa, some enterprising farmers chose a more profitable alternative of installing solar panels and selling electricity to utility companies.
Kominek family farm in northern Colorado was a green expanse of hay and alfalfa for half a century but the farm started losing money when the yields declined. Boulder County has land-use codes that only allow farming in the 24-acre land.
In the later part of 2017, Byron Kominek decided on installing solar panels because it was a more profitable alternative but since there are codes he decided on a solar array with plants growing beneath and around the rows of photovoltaic panels. Construction of the 1.2-megawatt solar array will start this spring.
At least 3,300 solar panels will rest on the 6 feet by 8 feet high stilts to provide shade for crops like tomatoes, peppers, kale, and beans. Pasture grasses and beehive boxes will be placed on the perimeter of the 5-acre plot. Aside from the food grown for the community, there will be renewable energy and increased revenue for the farm.
Once Kominek’s project becomes successful, it will serve as a model for other cash-strapped farmers. Under-performing lands can be transformed into money-making hubs of clean energy and fresh food. This merger between agriculture and solar photovoltaics or agrivoltaic is considered as an emerging niche in the solar power industry.
Xcel Energy, the biggest utility in the state will pay for every kilowatt-hour that will be delivered by Kominek’s solar array to the grid. Neighbours can invest in the project to receive credits on their monthly utility bills.