Going Beyond the Usual Conversation of Land Use Management

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Across the globe, humans are hungry for energy sources to power their lives, communities, and economies. Countries often have to choose between maintaining ecosystems integrity and utilizing resources to benefit their population. Think about palm oil plantations in Indonesia – being one of the major driver of deforestation for decades – or growing cattle in the Amazon – that also result in huge losses of rainforests. So whether we are planting biofuels or feeding ourselves by consuming meat, our environment is thrown under the bus.

In some ways, solar energy can also contribute to land use conflicts, and some solar projects have sparked controversies. The environmental community has had disagreements about dedicating fertile cropland to a solar farm – rightly so, I’d say. Providing a healthy and local food supply to the nearby community is one awesome strategy to preserve land and fight against climate change. Arguing that that food supply should be sacrificed for a solar farm is a false choice. We can do better.

Fortunately, there’s been some growing interest in the application of “agrivoltaics”. That is, to have a parcel of land dedicated to harvest the Sun in two major ways: one, to produce clean solar electricity (YES!), and two, to provide healthy food and medicinal plants (double YES!). That’s like hitting the Jackpot here 😊 !! Check out this extensive article here.  In summary, farming some animals, providing gardens with pollinator plants, growing plants for food consumption, AND sending clean electrons to the local grid can happen on the same site!

Surely we’re at the beginning of this body of scientific research, with only a few examples around, which nonetheless are showing some encouraging results. We need to go beyond the “conflict” mode, and the “either / or” perspective, and think more synergistically and strategically. In other words – I guess you heard of this already – we need to learn from and mimic nature. How beautiful would it be for your local community, and Maryland, to lead the way on this?

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