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Plans submitted for agrivoltaic farm

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This file picture shows what an agrivoltaic farm could look like.

A developer hopes to create an agrivoltaic farm — which combines farming and renewable energy generation — at a Warwick site.

A planning application, submitted by Edward Doe, seeks in-principle approval for an agrivoltaic farm on a site located between Middle Road and the Railway Trail near the border between Warwick and Southampton.

The application said that the proposal would help the island to move away from fossil fuels and enhance local food production by growing produce underneath solar panels.

“This plan increases the ability to plant shade-resistant crops for new markets,” the application said.

“The shade of solar panels provides multiple additive and synergistic benefits, including reduced plant drought stress and more constant temperature as the panels will maintain the temperature higher at night and colder during the day.

“It has a similar effect to shade cloth, but it is better than shade cloth since it is less likely to be damaged and damage the crops underneath.

“Also, water is better controlled, with the added benefit of less disease pressure due to a soggy cloth keeping humidity too high without abundant air flow.

“Shade provided by the solar panels would allow Bermuda's winter crops to be grown during the summer season, thus satisfying year-round market demand for certain crops and extending Bermuda’s growing season.”

The applicant said that woodland reserve area on the property would remain untouched and a 15ft buffer would be established.

The application argued that agrivoltaic farming fitted with the Bermuda Plan 2018 as it would use agricultural land for its intended purpose and would not negatively impact the area’s soil quality.

The location of the proposed agrivoltatic farm in Warwick. (Image from planning documents)

“If, for instance, in about 20 years, the solar panels used in this plan could no longer be useful, all that needs to be done to change these areas to their original state is the repurpose of the panels,” the applicant wrote.

“No degradation would have happened — actually, agrivoltaics helps prevent soil surfaces from being parched or eroded — and in the time period that the solar panels were in operation cash crops could be better produced in our summer season and the soil benefited.”

The application said that most of the agriculturally zoned land at the site was not being fully utilised and was overgrown with invasive plants.

“The agricultural part of this site can best become viable as agricultural property if supplemented by an income from solar energy to power quiet farm machinery and irrigation systems, etc,” the application stated.

“If this plan is not achievable, then the land value is highest if used as residential land with lawns for residents with little to no food output.

“An area of two acres is needed for any future vertical farm capacity to be viable. Therefore, agricultural land needs to be used for agrivoltaics in order for Bermuda to be more self-sufficient in food and energy.”

The documents said that if a bulk-generation licence was not acquired, the solar panels could be used to power a farm immigration system.

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Published March 16, 2023 at 8:07 am (Updated March 16, 2023 at 8:17 am)

Plans submitted for agrivoltaic farm

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