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U.S. Department of Energy InSPIRE Project Overview

Illustration that shows how sun shining on a solar panel and rain hitting a solar panel can help both vegetation and wildlife grow

The proposed solar-agriculture co-location field projects provides data to solar stakeholders and decision-makers. Photo by Jordan Macknick / NREL

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) InSPIRE project aims to demonstrate opportunities for cost reductions and environmental compatibility of solar energy technologies through low environmental impact designs and approaches.

To achieve the project’s aim, DOE brings together researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, universities, local governments, environmental groups, and industry partners.

Objectives and Activities:

The Inspire project explores solar and environmental synergies through four core research areas:

  • Low-impact site preparation practices for ground mounted solar projects
  • Improved compensatory mitigation planning
  • Siting solar projects on contaminated and marginal lands
  • Co-locating solar projects on agricultural lands for mutual benefits

Research Approach:

The InSPIRE project combines innovative computational studies with field-based research to provide fundamental data to landowners, the solar industry, and state decision-makers. The InSPIRE team utilizes consistent, peer-reviewed methods across all research field plots to ensure consistency and comparability. Specifically, the InSPIRE team analyzes:

  • Native vegetation growth underneath and around ground-mounted solar installations
  • Agricultural crop performance under innovative solar configurations
  • Impacts of low-impact solar development approaches on soil quality, carbon storage, stormwater management, microclimate conditions, and solar efficiencies
  • Benefits of pollinator-friendly solar on local agricultural yields

Research Partners:

The InSPIRE project incorporates partners from the solar industry, universities, and state agencies, including: