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Assessing the Viability of Urban Fringe Agricultural Lands for Sustainable Energy and Food Production: A Scenario-Based Analysis Pardis Akbari 1 Ralph P. Hall 2
  • Pardis Akbari
Pardis Akbari

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The United States is facing two major issues: climate change and the loss of agricultural land. Various legislative measures, such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, and the Protecting Future Farmland Act of 2023, have been enacted to tackle these challenges. Virginia’s 2020 Clean Energy Act aims for 100% renewable power by 2045. However, solar and wind power currently make up only 3% of the state’s energy. Since 1982, the U.S. has been losing a significant amount of farmland, with around 25 million acres lost, equivalent to 2,000 acres per day between 2001 and 2016. In Virginia, 339,800 acres of farmland were converted to urban or residential use from 2001 to 2016. This conversion negatively affects the potential renewable energy supply and undermines food production. This research aims to explore agrivoltaics as an innovative and potential solution to preserving farmland around the urban fringe, linking agricultural productivity with solar energy. The results reveal that approximately 37,000 acres of farmland within a 5-mile buffer of the Richmond metropolitan area could potentially produce 209,851,792 pounds of food annually, satisfying about 30% of the area's grain and vegetable requirements. Additionally, allocating 10% of this farmland for bifacial solar panels could fulfill the entire metropolitan area's energy needs solely with solar power. However, limitations such as data scarcity on local food consumption and detailed crop yields were encountered, necessitating the use of estimates and secondary data sources. Future directions of this research include identifying optimal locations for solar panel installation on farmlands, evaluating the agricultural productivity impacts of agrivoltaics, and selecting suitable solar technologies for specific locations.
04 Mar 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
05 Mar 2024Published in ESS Open Archive