Lightstar Renewables Commences Development of First-of-its-Kind Agrivoltaics Solar Farm Project in New York

Business Industry News

Located in Wappingers Falls, the Old Myers project is a 2MW community solar project that will give residents and businesses access to electricity bill savings through discounted community solar subscriptions

September 06, 2023: Traditional territories of the Mohican and Wappinger people / Wappingers Falls, New York – Today, Lightstar Renewables is about to break ground on its permitted Old Myers project, the first agrivoltaics (dual-use) project in New York. The project marks a significant milestone for the agriculture and solar industry, fostering energy independence as well as environmental and land stewardship in New York. 

Located in Wappingers Falls, Poughkeepsie, Old Myers is a 2MW dual-use community solar project that spans a 15-acre site. The project facilitates the Thompson family’s ability to keep the site in agricultural production as well as generating stable lease income over 25 years. The project will begin construction during Autumn 2023 and is expected to reach completion by Summer 2024. 

Agrivoltaics (AgPV) projects are dual-use solar installations, meaning crop production and grazing can happen in and around the solar array. Solar panels are mounted at enough height and space 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, early and late frosts, and heat waves.

The Old Myers project will harvest strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and lavender, among other produce, resulting in active market produce production for this agrivoltaics project in New York. Lightstar will be working with local institutions to study the produce grown and document the financial and agricultural case studies that will be disseminated widely. The project will enhance food security for the local community while generating solar energy to make the local grid cleaner and more reliable. Moreover, renewable energy will be used across the crop-growing cycle to achieve carbon neutrality on the farm. 

“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. 

“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,” Paul added.

The US is in the midst of one of the largest intergenerational land transfers in the history of the country, making farmland susceptible to permanent development when it changes hands. Lightstar prioritizes the preservation and protection of this rich legacy and invaluable farming heritage by taking an innovative approach towards combining solar and farming to increase the land’s potential. Additionally, farm owners Sean Thompson 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. As a result, the farm encompasses a greater solar and crop use case, further improving productivity and efficiency. The company will support the full lifecycle of the project by continuously working with the farmers and community members to ensure long-term success.

Sean Thompson, Landowner and Farmer said, “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. 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.

Ethan Winter, National Smart Solar Director, American Farmland Trust said, “Farmers and rural communities are essential to agriculture as well as to ambitious clean energy goals in New York and across the country. 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.”

Solar Agriculture Services (SolAg) has been Lightstar’s key partner on the project, offering knowledge, oversight, consultation and advisory. Commenting on the project, Iain Ward, CEO and Founder of Solar Agriculture Services, said, “SolAg is honored to partner with Lightstar on this leading-edge project that combines the production of nutritious food and clean energy. AgPV is a fantastic solution that increases the vitality of regional food production and builds the capacity of farmers and the lands they steward. We are excited about the future of agrivoltaics in New York State.”  

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. 

If you are a farmer looking to earn a passive income stream through a solar farm project, while still allowing for crop rotation or grazing, visit: Lightstar Renewables.

About Lightstar

Lightstar is a community solar developer and long-term owner and operator with a pipeline of over 1 gigawatt (GWs) of community solar farms in the US. Founded by a seasoned team of solar developers, our mission is to build solar for the land and community. We are leading the industry in community solar development that integrates local ecology and agriculture with every project. Stewarding the land the communities we serve are key to the success of the clean energy transition.

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