Lightstar Renewables is about to break ground on its first dual-use, agrivoltaics project in New York. Located in Wappingers Falls, Poughkeepsie, Old Myers is a 2-MW dual-use community solar project that spans a 15-acre site. The project will keep the Thompson family’s land in agricultural production and generating stable lease income over 25 years. The project will begin construction this fall and is expected to be completed by summer 2024.
“Some of the most prime farmlands in New York lack active crop growth and that hurts a farmer’s ability to generate income. Most often, land also misses the opportunity to leverage solar as it’s seen as competition with farming. What many don’t realize is that solar and agriculture are perfect partners — their synergies are crucial to the security and resiliency of our community for green power as well as localized food sources. Lightstar’s Old Myers dual-use project is a solution to this challenge — it combines crop production and sustainable energy production, proving harmonious coexistence is possible,” said Paul Wheeler, founder and CEO of Lightstar.
Agrivoltaic projects are dual-use solar installations that encourage crop production and grazing in and around the solar array. Solar panels are mounted high enough to allow adequate space for crops to grow and livestock to graze. The solar panels also provide protection to crops from extreme weather events, including storms, frosts and heat waves.
The Old Myers project will harvest strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and lavender, among other produce. Lightstar will be working with local institutions to study the produce grown there and author financial and agricultural case studies on the project. Renewable energy will be used across the crop-growing cycle to achieve carbon neutrality on the farm.
“This comes at a time when renewable energy must increase in order to decrease the energy cost burden, but not at the cost of valuable food production. Hence, Lightstar is meeting the urgency of this moment with its first-of-a-kind solar farm in New York. This project not only solidifies Lightstar’s position as a leading agrivoltaics and community solar developer, but it also furthers our strong pipeline of assets as part of our operational portfolio,” Wheeler said.
Lightstar is prioritizing farmland preservation as the industry experiences one of the largest intergenerationl land transfers on record. Farm owners Sean and Brian Thompson will retain the land’s farming use while earning long-term reliable income from the solar project. Lightstar has been engaged with the farm owners since early 2022 to help rezone the property at no cost to the farmers. The company will support the full lifecycle of the project by continuously working with the farmers and community members.
“This project is a fantastic opportunity for our family farm to increase our capacity to produce a variety of healthy locally grown crops and at the same time demonstrate the viability and effectiveness of the dual-use solar concept,” said Sean Thompson. “An added bonus is that this project will increase the vitality of our farm! The crops we produce under the array will be sold directly to consumers as well as through local channels and will fill a food niche that is otherwise only satisfied by producers outside of our region. We are excited and looking forward to sharing our experience with agrivoltaics with our community. ”
Lightstar has partnered with American Farmland Trust (AFT) to drive regenerative agricultural practices, and lead projects using AFT’s Smart Solar Siting Principles as a cornerstone of its solar and farming.
“Farmers and rural communities are essential to agriculture as well as to ambitious clean energy goals in New York and across the country,” said Ethan Winter, national smart solar director, American Farmland Trust. “We applaud Lightstar Renewables for embracing AFT’s Smart Solar℠ Siting Principles and designing a project that will pair crop production and community solar, particularly in an area where farmland is at significant risk of conversion to urban development. AFT encourages states like New York to take additional steps to incentivize and support agrivoltaic projects that strengthen farm viability, benefit local communities, and safeguard productive agricultural lands.”
Residents and businesses will have access to electricity bill savings through discounted community solar subscriptions. The project will also create tax revenue for the local municipality.
News item from Lightstar Renewables