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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Research Project #444114

Research Project: Sustainable Multi-functional Agricultural and Energy Systems for Arid Environments

Location: Range Management Research

2023 Annual Report

Objective 1: Design and develop optimized agrivoltaic installations and best management practices for multi-functional cropping and rangeland production and agricultural processing systems. Objective 2: Develop and deploy decision support tools for agrivoltaics in specific agricultural systems, including economic and life cycle assessment.

The Range Management Unit and Cotton Ginning Research Unit will collaborate to develop systems-level concepts and tools to guide agrivoltaics efforts in croplands, rangelands, and agricultural processing systems of the Southwest. The units will integrate research datasets and analyze and report agrivoltaic costs and benefits using standardized indicator frameworks and econometric analysis. The units will conduct research on optimal siting and design of photovoltaic installations to maximize agroecological co-benefits. The units will develop tools and best management practices for agrivoltaic system integration, maintenance, energy utilization, and return on investment. The units will create agreements with University partners to support experiments in photovoltaic installations with key crop and soil types common to Southwestern ecosystems at agricultural research centers and postharvest processors. The units will collaborate with government agencies and agricultural stakeholders controlling land on which renewable energy development projects are planned. Initial project phase will define knowledge gaps about likely co-benefits and challenges and determine priorities for next phases of research in the Southwest

Progress Report
Planning was initiated with partners at New Mexico State University to coordinate research efforts, including 1) studies of existing agrivoltaic arrays within the region, 2) design and location of new agrivoltaic installations based on existing designs, 3) planning for new agrivoltaic designs, and 4) multi-factor (production, environment, economic, and social) evaluations of agrivoltaic deployments in private, state, and federal lands. Position descriptions are in development for two new scientists and support staff, and an agreement 3050-41000-011-001S is in development for collaborative research with New Mexico State University. An agricultural engineer was hired to assist with startup of the project, developing stakeholder relationships, and writing the project plan.