Last week Conergy introduced a new installation using its Elevated Agricultural Solar Structure, which was designed to allow for land to both produce electricity and to remain agriculturally productive, for instance, for cattle. The company installed a 510 kilowatt solar electric installation at Kirschenman Enterprises Inc.’s cold storage facility in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
The installation, which included three rooftops and two ground-mounted systems, was the first time that Conergy has deployed a ground-mount system designed to fit the needs of an agricultural producer. “This type of installation is the first of its kind in the agricultural industry in the US. Around the world, we have installed many systems that are carports, however, since the elevated agriculture structure at Kirschenman Enterprises is designed specifically for the needs of the customer, there are few direct comparisons available,” said Conergy spokesperson Jaymie Fuentes.
While it’s a first for the industry, it’s likely far from the last. In fact, it’s helping open up a new market for solar installers and a new point of sale for the agricultural industry. In the past wind farms have taken place on agricultural lands, since they’re tall and farming or grazing can occur underneath them with little interruption. Meanwhile, solar takes up land and most of its agricultural use. By elevating it, some of that use can be recovered.
The system at Kircshenman is over a loading dock, allowing farm equipment and trucks to pass under without hitting the elevated structure. It’s akin to systems designed as parking structures, it’s different—beefier if you will. “The elevated agriculture structure is larger and covers agriculture products instead of the vehicles that are standard with the parking structures,” Fuentes said. “Many of the differences are in the supporting structure, since it is larger to be able to attain the larger PV system, with fewer supporting structures. Creating this type of design allows for the solar PV system to assist the Ag business by allowing additional usable area that isn’t limited as much as a parking structure can be, in addition to assisting with the production of electricity to offset their utility bills,” she said.
The additional height of the installation added to its costs, Fuentes said. In addition, “The structure needed to be stronger to support wind, snow and other loads and had to adhere to safety and building regulations,”she said. “The structure was built to the customer specifications and needs—this installation specifically is taller than other installations we’ve completed.