Assemblymember Kelles and Senator Hinchey Bill for Agrivoltaics Research at Cornell Signed into Law

Ithaca, NY – On Friday, December 8th, Assemblymember Anna Kelles’ final remaining bill (A4911) of eleven bills she championed and ensured passed in the Assembly this year, was signed into law by Governor Hochul, establishing the Agrivoltaics Research Program. Agrivoltaics is the use of land for both agriculture and solar energy generation. In rural communities, tensions can arise when agricultural land is converted to large-scale solar arrays removing the land permanently from food production. However, agrivoltaics can provide a creative solution preventing the loss of prime farmland while also investing in renewable energy.

Sometimes referred to as agrisolar or dual use solar, holistic agrivoltaics systems look at agriculture and solar energy production as compliments rather than as competitors. These systems work to improve both environmental and economic sustainability while facilitating a transition to a renewable energy economy. However, successful and robust implementation of agrivoltaics depend on many different factors including, soil nutrient composition and quality, precipitation levels, microclimate, and land topography, as well as the skillset, interest, and beliefs of a farmer and farm community to name a few factors. Farmers do not have the time or economic freedom to pull fields out of production and experiment with new technologies to determine the best solar panel heights and layout, crop species, livestock, and equipment for planting and harvesting. The intention of this legislation is to establish a research program where region-specific best practices are established to maximize both energy and crop output from an agrivoltaics program.

The New York State College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University will establish a 3-year Agrivoltaics Research Program to develop science-based and region-specific recommendations for the co-location of crops and solar power arrays while promoting biodiversity of flora and fauna. The research will provide guidance on best practices on implementing agrivoltaics throughout New York State that will be disseminated through cooperative extensions across the state.

Assemblymember Anna Kelles stated: “Too often agriculture and solar are competing for the best farmland, but this does not need to be the case. I’m proud that this law establishes a research program that is designed to bring together research scientists from disciplines like agriculture, plant sciences, engineering, environmental sciences, and sociology to design agrivoltaics best practices. The program will emphasize both diversity and productivity of crops and livestock grown and raised under solar panels and determine the best solar structure design and field layout as well as compatible tools and machinery to maximize energy production and agricultural yields. This new law provides an exciting economic opportunity for the agricultural sector while ensuring they maintain autonomy and agricultural productivity. I appreciate Governor Hochul signing this bill into law and supporting this important and rapidly growing technology and Sen. Hinchey for effectively championing this new law through the Senate.”

Senator Hinchey stated: "The path to solving the climate crisis requires expanding renewable energy projects to achieve our clean energy goals; however, this effort has historically harmed our local food supply, often taking prime farmland out of production and putting farms out of business. The new Agrivoltaics Research Program at Cornell CALS will help change this dynamic by pioneering strategies and technology to facilitate vital collaboration between the renewable energy and agriculture industries. This innovative approach holds promise for ensuring a stable local food supply while advancing our clean energy transition, and I thank Assemblymember Anna Kelles and Cornell CALS for their partnership in developing this science-based climate solution.”

“The Center for AgriVoltaics will leverage our extension networks and faculty expertise to create a dual-use economic opportunity for farmers, who are critical allies in meeting New York’s renewable energy goals,” said Ben Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). “I’m grateful to Gov. Hochul, Assemblymember Anna Kelles, and Sen. Michelle Hinchey for their leadership in establishing this research center, which will pursue science-based solutions that generate co-benefits for rural communities, our state and the planet.”