After serving as a diplomat in Africa, Byron Kominek came home to find out that his family’s 24-acre farm in Colorado was in trouble.
Byron wondered if solar panels and farming could coexist– could he harvest the sun from above with solar arrays and grow crops beneath them to increase cash flow?
When Kominek approached Boulder County officials with the idea, he was denied permission because his land was classified as historic farmland. But, when he showed them research from Colorado State University and the National Renewable Energy Lab about ways to grow food on the land under solar panels, he won over some hearts and minds, and the solar farm came to fruition.
Kominek spaced the panels far apart enough so he could drive his tractor in between them and soon enough discovered his kale crops were thriving with the shade from the solar panels.
The periodic shade also resulted in significantly reduced evaporation of valuable irrigation water.
The panels on Kominek’s farm produce enough power to supply 300 homes for a year. Kominek is aiming to cultivate enough food under the panels to feed a similar number of local families. That’s farmer math.