Let the Sun Shine

Agrivoltaic: It’s not a household word. Yet. But if Jack’s Solar Garden and the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center have their way, this concept will quickly catch on around the globe. Essentially, agrivoltaics is when a solar array meets beneficial agriculture: pollen-rich plantings for bees and butterflies, crop production and even sheep grazing. Best of all, agrivoltaics keep farmland in farm production, concurrently promoting clean energy, local food and responsible land use management.

The Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center hosts tours at Jack’s Solar Garden, the largest agrivoltaic research solar array of its kind in the nation. The public is welcome, and the guided tours are an hour long. Located south of Longmont in Boulder County, Jack’s Solar Garden inspires visitors to think differently about sustainability, and Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center is the facilitator for these life-changing “Aha!” experiences.

In its first nine months of operation, Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center has hosted more than 30 government officials and dozens of free tours for elementary, middle and high school student groups. Their small team of one half-time employee and a handful of volunteers is proud to report that they’ve hosted more than 550 people for farm tours and have given 650 outreach presentations to people across the globe.

“Society talks about the energy transition and the importance of sustainable agriculture, but we rarely interact with those spaces,” Andy Bingle, the center’s education director said.

For most visitors, even employees of large solar companies, it was the first time they’d walked under a large solar array. “I love creating experiences that people will likely never forget. Here you can walk under solar panels, get up close with organic farming practices and see a research site where two universities are working,” Andy said.

Alpine Bank was an early supporter of the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center.

“The trust in our potential gave our team assurance and inspired us to meet our mission,” said Andy. “We appreciated the financial contribution, but just as important was the vote of confidence it represented.”

Now, Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center seeks to expand its capacity. Its goals are to accommodate more students and be an information source for land managers, solar developers and policymakers. Learn more about their work and how to support it at coagrivoltaic.org.

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