The system provides free solar power for community use while coexisting with the community garden.
Sandbox Solar, a local Fort Collins solar company, recently completed an agrivoltaic solar array in a partnership with The Growing Project. The system is located at the FoCo Commons Garden, next to the FoCo Cafe. Sandbox Solar donated this 600W, two-panel solar array for the garden. The panels are manufactured by Colorado’s Lumos Solar. This system powers a USB outlet for phone chargers and the like for anyone in need. The panel is also designed to further education about the ways in which solar energy and agriculture can coexist, as well as help our community understand the potential of agrivoltaics. The array that the Sandbox Solar team installed is an agrivoltaic system – something that Sandbox Solar has studied extensively in conjunction with Colorado State University. This particular kind of solar system is designed to allow some sunlight to filter through the panels, allowing the plants underneath to grow, while still creating solar energy. Through Sandbox Solar’s research, the team has learned that vegetables such as lettuce and kale grow best under these panels, which is what The Growing Project has now planted in the garden.
The Growing Project’s mission is to promote an environmentally and socially just local food system, and one of the ways they have done this is through youth education and community gardens. The FoCo Commons garden produces crops used by the cafe, gives the community a place to learn more about local food production, and is a sanctuary for all to enjoy. “The Growing Project is very grateful for Sandbox Solar’s gift. Agrivoltaics are super exciting and ripe for education,” says Megan Gross, Executive Director of The Growing Project. “Even moreso, the concept of solar-sharing aligns with our mission – in both practice and spirit – in that it promotes regenerative systems, a recommoning of resources, and a restorative relationship with natural energy, the sun, and feeding our community. For the FoCo Commons space, which is a public sanctuary, having access to solar-powered outlets is really cool.”
“Sandbox Solar is committed to bettering the environment and our community with projects like this,” says Ian Skor, Co-Founder of Sandbox Solar. “Sandbox Solar aims to be a community leader in green energy generation and furthering education about solar and the possibilities with agrivolatics.”