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Jack’s Solar Garden: An Agrivoltaics Project We Love

Last weekend, our Solar Research Specialist, Aaron, took a rainy-day tour of the country’s largest agrivoltaics research center. 

All of the pictures of the farm were taken by Aaron on a cold, drizzly Saturday. So, if you want to see even better photos, check out Jack’s Solar Garden’s website or the website of their nonprofit, the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center

A few planted rows at Jack’s Solar Garden as viewed from the side. 

Jack’s Solar Garden, located in Longmont, Colorado, is a pioneering agrivoltaics (agriculture + photovoltaics) project that combines solar energy production with agricultural practices. The 24-acre family farm was initially purchased by Jack Stingerie in 1972 and used as a hay farm. Now owned and managed by Byron Kominek, Jack Stingerie’s grandson, the farm has evolved from traditional agriculture to the U.S.’s largest center for agrivoltaic research.

Their 3,276 solar panel, 1.2-MW array spreads across five acres and produces sufficient energy to power over 300 homes.

The project is the largest of its kind in the U.S. Research partners, including NREL, Colorado State University, and the University of Arizona, conduct regular studies on agrivoltaics at Jack’s Solar Garden, looking at crop production, pollinator habitats, and ecosystem impact.

In the photo below, you can see one of their research projects. Each grouping of three QR codes on sticks represents a different species of garlic. Each QR code represents a different shade zone for the panels, so you can see how the garlic performs when growing under them!

Garlic Scapes peeking out from three planted rows in various shade zones

The site serves as a habitat for local wildlife and a training ground for new agricultural techniques under solar panels. It is operated by Sprout City Farms and supported by Audubon Rockies, who’ve established a large pollinator habitat around the solar array.

They grow a variety of produce that they sell at local farmer’s markets. Below you can see lemon balm peeking out from the ground under one of the array rows. 

Lemon balm growing in a shaded area under the panels

The entire array is mounted on steel beams that are driven nine feet into the ground. Part of the array is mounted at six feet, and part is mounted at eight. Other than the beams, the ground isn’t highly impacted, and they’ve managed to graze sheep and cows under the panels with minimal impact. 

The area under the panels where they graze livestock.

All of the rows of panels are on trackers, meaning they follow the sun throughout the day. It’s truly amazing how little noise they make (they only move a few degrees every twenty minutes). 

The trackers were manufactured by Solar FlexRack, a division of Northern States Metals. The entire system was installed by Namaste Solar, an employee-owned co-op that’s been installing solar systems in the Denver and Boulder area for 19 years (very much the Exact Solar of Colorado, they were even founded in the same year). 

A closer look at the steel beams driven into the ground that hold the array. 

Jack’s Solar Garden educates people on agrivoltaics through its nonprofit, the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center. This center offers regular tours and educational programs to teach local schools and community members about integrating solar energy with sustainable agriculture. 

A picture of one of the rows where people can pass through. Research equipment can be seen to the right of the photo. 

Jack’s Solar Garden has garnered local governments’ and educational institutions’ attention and support, recognizing their model’s potential for energy security and sustainable agriculture. 

A large percentage of their power is bought directly by sponsors like Abasin Ski Resort, who, through the help of organizations like Jack’s Solar Garden all around Colorado, are now powered exclusively by renewable energy!

During the tours, they hand out Sharpies to sign your name in the steel beams. Aaron left his mark…

A picture of Aaron’s name written on one of the steel beams.

It’s amazing how many things are happening on this land. Jack’s Solar Garden has had two researchers work to get their Ph. D.s here. They host regular workshops and agrivoltaic introduction classes. They always have an end-of-summer barbecue with performances by local musicians, sharing some of the produce that’s been grown over the season. 

As we as a country look to balance renewable energy production with ecological and agricultural stewardship, Jack’s Solar Garden offers a blueprint for the future.

Are you a farmer or landowner looking for an additional income stream? Exact Solar, a locally owned installer with 19 years of experience, is positioned perfectly to design and build a system exactly like this.

If you’re curious to learn more, we’d love to consult with you! You can get in touch with a sales engineer for a consultation here or call us at (215) 621-8353. 

We look forward to helping you engage your community!

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