CREL Unveils Plan for Agrivoltaics Demonstration Project at BC Delano Campus

By Kern CCD | 10/04/23
KCCD Office

Bakersfield, CA- This morning at the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s System Webinar Deputy Chancellor Zav Dadabhoy unveiled the Agrivoltaics project being developed at Bakersfield College’s Delano Campus Regenerative Farm.

Since The California Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (CREL) inception back in 2020 under the vision of Dr. Sonya Christian, KernCCD began exploring ways to develop the workforce for a transitioning energy sector. The Agrivoltaics demonstration project is being funded by a portion of the $50 million investment from the State of California awarded in May 2022’s legislative budget and this visionary project aims to integrate sustainable agriculture practices and renewable energy technologies to create an innovative learning lab for students.

A pioneering approach combining solar panels with crops beneath them, Agrivoltaics, is optimizing land use for both energy generation and plant cultivation. This sustainable technique not only produces clean renewable energy, but also fosters a symbiotic relationship between solar power and agriculture, setting an example for a greener future.

To meet California’s ambitious clean energy goals 2045, the State must make use of solar power, wind power, and other renewable sources. Agivoltaics is also a proposed component of the greater solution to address CA’s needs for more renewable energy production and the repurposing and preservation of natural land, as mentioned by Dadabhoy during his webinar presentation.
CREL continues to work with partners at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to explore and further develop innovative solutions that are well-suited for Kern County.

"Kern is consistently ranked at the top in production of ag, oil, and renewables. This work will add to Kern's renewable energy portfolio by providing a real-world educational platform, that offers students and communities first hand experience of renewable energy technology, cutting edge agriculture, and offered in a county known for ag innovation. By engaging in this project, we are educating the next generation about possibilities that only exist when we work together, think outside the box, and dare to be bold and innovative to keep Kern at the forefront," said Kern Community College District Trustee President, Romeo Agbalog. “I am eager to see the incredible benefits that this project, thanks to the partnership of CREL, NREL, and all contributing partners, will bring for our students, their families, their careers, our communities, and local industries."

The Agrivoltaics Project will provide hands-on learning opportunities for students, industry, and the community to work and collaborate on small-scale, industry-ready technology. The project encourages students and the community to learn about new renewable energy technologies, how they operate, the key benefits, and risks or challenges with implementing these technologies commercially, and what skills and job potential these technologies can bring to Kern County.

The greenhouse is planned to house various crops grown using hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics, as well as a microgreens growing tower. The greenhouse will be fully automated with a cooling system to be able to set the climate to the plants optimal growing conditions. The farm will also utilize electric tractors and farm operation equipment, along with solar panels which will be raised 7.5’ feet high and 18’ spaced to allow for students to work and learn under the panels and provide enough sun for crops and space for the farm equipment.

Map showing plans for agrivoltaics project at BC delano campus, including a 50' by 30; solar greenhouse, 78' by 80' agrivoltaic plot, blueberries, grapes, avocado, stone fruit, almonds and pistachios

The energy system of the farm will operate as an isolated system or a microgrid system where the energy produced will be used to charge the EV tractor, meet the power needs of the greenhouse equipment, or be stored in the on-site battery and can be used when needed.

The California Renewable Energy Laboratory (CREL) also plans to provide local access to workshops, speakers, hands-on education, and equipment that growers need to implement changed practices.

Dadabhoy added, “The Agrivoltaics project is setting a high standard for initiatives that align with our shared goals of creating a more sustainable, environmentally friendly, healthy, and successful future for our students and our community.”

Preparations are ongoing for a ribbon cutting at the space later this fall. For more information about CREL, visit the official CREL webpage.