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1A Remaking America: Can solar power help fix drought-ravaged farmlands?

The American West is experiencing its worst drought in over 1,000 years. That’s making a lot of farmers rethink their sustainability practices and reimagine land that has become infertile.

One way to innovate is via solar energy. Solar panels can make use of depleted land and help offset a farm’s energy costs. They also preserve groundwater and help with crop growth.

The transition to expanding solar energy on farmland does come with costs and considerations, especially for farmers who rely on the land for food production. However, it is important to recognize the potential synergies and long-term benefits that can be achieved through innovative practices. To address concerns about the impact on food production, careful planning, and strategic implementation are key. Farmers can explore options such as agrovoltaics, which involve combining solar panels with agricultural activities, allowing for both energy generation and crop cultivation on the same land. Additionally, advancements in technology and resources can assist in assessing the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of solar panel installations. Utilizing tools like a solar panel installation calculator can provide insights into the financial implications, energy savings, and potential returns on investment specific to each farm’s unique circumstances. By embracing sustainable practices and exploring the integration of solar energy, farmers have the opportunity to adapt to changing environmental conditions, reduce their reliance on traditional energy sources, and contribute to a more resilient and sustainable agricultural system.

There is a price to be paid. The transition isn’t always cheap. Could expanding solar on farmland make it harder and more expensive to feed America?

We go to California where there’s plenty of sun and an appetite to reach aggressive climate goals to hear about the possibilities.

This show was part of 1A’s Remaking America collaboration with six partner stations around the country. Remaking America is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


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June Leffler, Michelle Harven