Jack's Solar Garden is a 1.2MW solar farm project and the largest agrivoltaic research project in the U.S., located in Boulder County, Colorado. The solar installation was designed and built by Namasté Solar, an employee-owned cooperative based in Colorado. Jack's is a community solar garden that produces enough power for over 300 homes.
Jack's sits on five acres of farmland for the dual use of agriculture and solar energy production. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Colorado State University, and the University of Arizona, this project will be studying how best to grow wildflowers, pasture and prairie grasses, pollinator habitats, as well as crops, such as carrots, onions, tomatoes and squash that will all be planted this season underneath and around the solar array.
Namasté Solar, a Certified B Corporation that develops, designs, installs, and maintains solar electric systems for homeowners, commercial property owners, and utility-scale developers, selected Solar FlexRack's TDP Solar Trackers due to their versatility, as well as their smart backtracking, which reduces shading across rows and increases energy production. Solar FlexRack's adaptable TDP Solar Trackers enabled Namasté Solar to overcome the challenge of installing the trackers at several different heights to test the impact of various amounts of shade and sunlight on crop growth, while still maximizing solar energy yield.
Leveraging their expertise from prior agrivoltaic projects, Namasté Solar knew it was critical to avoid overly compacting the native soil, which could limit the planting of certain species. They overcame this challenge by maintaining strict drive lanes for heavy equipment and not using gravel on-site. "Namasté Solar is a long-time industry leader, particularly in the agrivoltaic space, and we share their dedication to customer satisfaction," said Steve Daniel, EVP of Sales and Marketing at Solar FlexRack.
This agrivoltaic project has already become a national model of service and education. Along with the partnerships with agrivoltaic research institutions, Jack's partnered with Audubon Rockies to plant their largest Habitat Hero in Colorado around the perimeter of the solar array – over 1,800 pollinator friendly perennials – in May 2020. They are also partnering with Sprout City Farms, who will manage crop production under the solar array as well as train the first agrivoltaic farmers in Colorado. The farm also donates 2% of its energy production to low-income households in Boulder County and has an Artist on the Farm program to support local creatives. Students and community members have an opportunity to tour Jack's to learn about agriculture, solar power and land use management through their new non-profit arm, the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center. With Namasté Solar and Solar FlexRack's help, Jack's has been able to emphasize the idea of community while also cultivating the next generation of agrivoltaic farmers.