UNITED STATES

Agrivoltaics

Agriculture and renewable energy sharing land

Solar farms can grow more than electricity. Agrivoltaics (agriculture + “photovoltaics”) places crops or livestock underneath and between rows of solar panels. While researchers are trialing how to grow fruit and vegetable crops at scale, the most common and successful forms of agrivoltaics at solar projects currently are sheep grazing and bee keeping. These practices keep the land in agriculture while providing additional revenue for our farmer partners and ecosystem benefits to the environment.

By the end of 2024, Lightsource bp will have implemented solar grazing across 3GW of our operating U.S. solar portfolio. With more than 14,000 sheep under management, our partner solar shepherds are supporting American energy independence while creating healthier landscapes and maintaining vegetation under and around the solar panels.

Lightsource bp’s first solar honey operation in the United States launched at our Briar Creek solar farm in Texas in 2023, where a family leasing land to the solar farm also keeps commercial beehives on the property. A second solar honey operation is underway at Bellflower Solar in Indiana. With an abundance of flowers growing at the solar farms, providing nectar to the bees, these beekeepers can produce thousands of pounds of honey each year. Lightsource bp currently procures 750 pounds of U.S. solar honey annually, with additional partnerships in discussions.

Learn more about our agrivoltaics footprint in the U.S.

20

U.S. projects with agrivoltaics implemented

750

pounds of solar honey purchased by Lightsource bp (the beekeepers produce much more!)

175

acres of high-value pollinator gardens growing at U.S. projects

16

farm families contracted for US agrivoltaics partnerships

14,000

sheep grazing our US solar farms in 2024

3 GW

with solar grazing implemented by 2025

Solar grazing is bringing new hope to America’s farmers

The solar industry is helping revive sheep farming in America. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. imports more than half of its sheep products: mainly meat and wool. That wasn’t always the case. At peak, there were more than 50 million head of sheep in the USA. Today, estimates put the number around 5 million.

As America’s family farmers and ranchers face increasing economic stress, opportunities to partner with solar farms are providing new income streams and in many cases, the ability to maintain or even expand their operations. Even better, solar shepherds are supporting American energy independence while creating healthier landscapes and maintaining vegetation under and around the solar panels.

 

Solar grazing partner Amanda Stoffels on how agrivoltaics has enabled her farming dreams

Solar grazing is a triple-win for clean energy, healthy land and family farms

Research has shown that managed grazing simultaneously works to improve soil health and foster healthy ecosystems, while managing vegetation around the solar panels through natural, effective means. As the sheep graze, they trample waste and old plant matter into the earth. As the organic material decomposes, it fertilizes and rejuvenates the soil.

Solar grazing helps strengthen rural economies, too. Grazing sheep at solar farms contributes dairy, meat, and wool to the locally sourced, renewable farm market. Contracts for grazing services provide farmers with a reliable source of new income, on top of what they earn via products they produce. Farmers who are leasing their own land to the solar project may see as many as three revenue streams from their land: lease payments, grazing contract and agricultural products. Increased, diversified revenue and access to productive land may help a farm increase its resilience, or even grow.

Read more about the benefits of solar grazing

  • Improve soil health and carbon sequestration

    Managed sheep grazing has been proven to improve soil health and carbon sequestration. A recent study showed grazing significantly increased total carbon storage and available nutrients in the soil.  

  • Manage vegetation through natural means​

    Solar grazing keeps the vegetation under and around the solar panels at an optimal height, without the use of machinery or emissions.

  • Foster healthy ecosystems​

    As the sheep graze, they trample waste and old plant matter into the earth. As the organic material decomposes, it fertilizes the vegetation under and around the solar panels, helping increase biodiversity by supporting a large variety of ecosystems.

  • Strengthen rural economies

    As America’s family farmers and ranchers face increasing economic stress, opportunities to partner with solar farms are providing new, reliable income streams and often the ability to expand their operations.

  • Revive US sheep industry​

    Today we import more than half of our sheep products. That wasn’t always the case. At peak, there were more than 50 million head of sheep in the USA. Today, estimates put the number around 5 million.

Solar honey

Beekeeping at solar farms

According to the USDA, US honey demand reached an all-time high with a record setting consumption of 618 million pounds in 2021. The United States is the second largest honey consumer behind China, and we’re importing around 70% of the honey we consume, primarily from Vietnam, Argentina, India, Brazil, and Ukraine.

This means there is a huge opportunity to grow domestic honey production in the United States! But healthy and productive honeybee hives need access to rich habitat where they can collect nectar from flowers. Unfortunately, populations have been declining due to habitat loss and pesticide use.

The good news: Solar farms can provide stable, long-term homes for bees and butterflies. In fact, many of our solar projects around the world bring on local beekeepers as a way to integrate agriculture into the project and keep the land in food production while generating renewable energy. What a SWEET opportunity! This helps pollinate crops on surrounding farmland while supporting America’s home-grown honey industry.  

Lightsource bp has two active solar beekeeping projects in the U.S., one at Briar Creek Solar in Texas and another at Bellflower Solar in Indiana.

More agrivoltaics stories from Lightsource bp

Learn more about our Responsible Solar approach to environmental sustainability

Environment

Learn how we maximize the environmental sustainability of our solar farms

Learn more

Biodiversity

Learn how we're increasing biodiversity and conserving habitat at our solar farms.

Learn more

Research & Monitoring

Learn how we're contributing to academic research and industry best practices.

Learn more