Solar Array Ecosystem Impacts

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Placing solar arrays on farmland and other human-modified landscapes represents a promising area to unite energy production with ecological restoration and the sustained conservation of ecologically valuable land. Despite the potential social, economic, and ecological synergistic benefits that coupling these land uses could create, the impacts of solar arrays on fallowed farmland and other disturbed landscapes remain heretofore unexamined. In this project, we are characterizing:

1) the direct and indirect effects of utility scale solar arrays on terrestrial microclimatic factors, plant-soil interactions, and their feedbacks to higher trophic levels in newly fallowed cropland overlain by PV arrays; and

2) determine whether seeding this system with a diverse native and naturalized meadow plant community improves ecosystem recovery in the array system relative to a traditional cover crop fallowing technique. This work is currently underway in Vermont and at the new solar array on Hampshire College’s campus.