Lightstar Renewables is poised to embark on a pioneering endeavor as it breaks ground on the Old Myers solar project, New York’s first-ever agrivoltaics (dual-use) initiative. The project represents a remarkable milestone for both the agriculture and solar industries, advocating for energy independence, environmental stewardship, and sustainable land use in the state of New York.
Situated in Wappingers Falls, Poughkeepsie, the Old Myers project encompasses a 15-acre site and boasts a 2MW dual-use community solar system. Notably, this innovative project ensures the continuity of agricultural production for the Thompson family while generating stable lease income over the next 25 years. Construction for the project is slated to commence in Autumn 2023, with completion anticipated by Summer 2024.
Agrivoltaics (AgPV) projects, such as the Old Myers initiative, are characterized by dual-use solar installations, where both crop cultivation and grazing can occur in and around the solar array. Solar panels are strategically positioned to allow ample space for crop growth and livestock grazing, providing protection to crops from extreme weather conditions, including storms, frosts, and heatwaves.
The Old Myers project will yield an array of produce, including strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and lavender, showcasing active market produce production within New York’s agrivoltaics landscape. Lightstar Renewables plans to collaborate with local institutions to conduct studies on the crops grown and disseminate financial and agricultural case studies widely. The project not only bolsters food security for the local community but also contributes to a cleaner and more reliable local grid by generating solar energy. Moreover, renewable energy will be integrated across the crop-growing cycle to achieve carbon neutrality on the farm.
Paul Wheeler, Founder and CEO of Lightstar, emphasized the synergistic relationship between solar energy and agriculture, noting, “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 agrivoltaic project is a solution to this challenge — it combines crop production and sustainable energy production, proving harmonious coexistence is possible.”
In a time when renewable energy needs to increase without compromising food production, Lightstar is taking the lead with its pioneering solar farm project in New York. This endeavor not only reinforces Lightstar’s position as a prominent agrivoltaics and community solar developer but also strengthens its operational portfolio with a diverse range of assets.
The United States is currently witnessing one of the most significant intergenerational land transfers in its history, making farmland susceptible to permanent development. Lightstar’s approach prioritizes the preservation and protection of farming heritage by creatively merging solar and farming to unlock the land’s full potential. Importantly, farm owners Sean Thompson and Brian Thompson will maintain the land’s farming use while securing long-term reliable income from the solar project.
Lightstar has been actively engaged with the farm owners since early 2022, assisting in rezoning the property at no cost to the farmers. As a result, the farm now encompasses a broader solar and crop use case, further enhancing productivity and efficiency. The company is committed to supporting the project’s entire lifecycle by collaborating with farmers and community members to ensure long-term success.
Sean Thompson, Landowner and Farmer, expressed enthusiasm about the project, stating, “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.”
Lightstar has partnered with American Farmland Trust (AFT) to promote regenerative agricultural practices and implement AFT’s Smart SolarSM Siting Principles as a cornerstone of its solar and farming initiatives.
Ethan Winter, National Smart Solar Director at American Farmland Trust, praised Lightstar Renewables for their forward-thinking approach, stating, “We applaud Lightstar Renewables for embracing AFT’s Smart SolarSM 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.”
Key partner Solar Agriculture Services (SolAg) has played an integral role in providing expertise, oversight, consultation, and advice for the project. Iain Ward, CEO and Founder of Solar Agriculture Services, commended the project’s focus on nutritious food production and clean energy, describing it as a “fantastic solution” that enhances regional food production and empowers farmers.
The project will provide residents and businesses with access to electricity bill savings through discounted community solar subscriptions while also generating tax revenue for the local municipality.