As shown above, TrackerSled’s SunFarmor solar farms align with the DOE’s five priorities for the energy transition. First, SunFarmor modules accelerate deployment with a product - not a project - enabling “pop-up” construction times while avoiding labor and supply bottlenecks. With USDA incentives, tax incentives, and market rewards packaged by TrackerSled’s financial partner, farmers will break even in the first year in most cases.
Second, although SunFarmor modules won’t substantially reduce first costs, they dramatically reduce the cost of ownership, especially for family farms. Future generations can repower the SunFarmor modules with the same efficiency of the original deployment. Unlike mainstream solar farms, the modules don’t need to be fenced or decommissioned. Since the system obviates surveying and geotechnical investigation, soft costs will be a fraction of a typical distributed-scale solar farm.
Third, with its distributed manufacturing and roadside assembly model, the SunFarmor system increases resource flexibility and diversity. Free of exotic parts, local labor will prefabricate the subassemblies, keeping dollars in rural communities. With the agency inherent in owning two means of production, the farmer will use every drop of unclipped solar energy behind the meter for their benefit.
Fourth, multiple SunFarmor solar farms in a service territory will support a modernized grid by increasing reliability and local resilience. The rural electric co-op will benefit from behind-the-meter generation collocating with seasonal peak loads like grain drying, which can forestall potential infrastructure upgrades. Eventually, Rural Electric Member Cooperatives (REMCs) can act as Distributed System Operators able to respond to peak loads by dispatching the farmer's energy storage smooth intermittencies during the day.
Lastly, with numerous projects launching across the Corn Belt in parallel, EPCs can leverage and grow small businesses with skills like welding which are ubiquitous in rural America. For every four 1MW solar farms, Trackersled will create 43 job years in the local community. As shown in below and modeled in IMPLAN, four 1MW SunFarmor module farms in Champaign County, Illinois with 800kWh of storage and $1M H2/NH3 plants, will result in $3.4M of indirect and induced economic gains. Unlike typical solar developments that export power and dollars, SunFarmor solar farms distribute benefits locally.
In addition to the DOE’s five priorities, TrackerSled’s SunFarmor module is designed to be seen as part of the agricultural vernacular - not an interloper. Since a 1MW TrackerSled solar farm occupies the same footprint as a typical grouping of grain bins, it can be understood as farming equipment that accrues community benefits. Columbia Law School recently found that 121 local governments restrict renewable energy projects, a 17.5 percent increase in six years, with half of the restrictions in the Midwest. Rural communities are pushing back against large solar development that alters the rural landscape. TrackerSled solar farms are too modest in scale to monopolize the agrarian landscape while ownership is transparent. There is no hidden agenda behind a fence.
Unlike most agricultural solar systems that grow specialty crops under photovoltaic modules permanently mounted on posts and beams, the SunFarmor platform is designed for the large-scale industrial agriculture that characterizes most of the Corn Belt. The US’s industrial agriculture footprint comprises 391 million acres of cropland (only 77 million acres that produce food for humans) and 654 million acres of rangeland.
While some solar developers contend the US can easily sacrifice one percent of its cropland to produce its power, TrackerSled aims to avoid the conflict altogether, using agrivoltaics to increase farmer agency while fortifying the earth’s second-largest carbon sink to mutual benefit. Most importantly, TrackerSled will use its broad applicability to industrial farming to revitalize economies across rural America while decarbonizing it.
While conventional farmers may migrate to carbon-free operations for profit, the SunFarmor ecosystem also paves the way for regenerative farmers to be financially rewarded, which will accrue massive public benefits if their numbers increase substantially. Regenerative farmers, who leverage biological principles instead of agrochemical ones, have failed to expand their numbers beyond one percent of cropland. They have struggled to earn reliable price premiums because of a lack of agreed standards and questions of additionality and the permanence of sequestering carbon in soils.
With SunFarmor solar farms, regenerative farmers can start earning reliable price premiums with carbon-free commodities. Regenerative farmers have already reduced their chemical and labor expenses while increasing their profits. The profitable carbon-free foothold will invite more practitioners. Together, the larger contingent will catalyze outsized ecological gains for the public by improving rainwater infiltration, resiliency, and nutrition density.
As an alternative to environmentally destructive Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), regenerative row crop farmers can incorporate livestock on SunFarmor dual-use fields, by working cooperatively with ranchers or expanding their operations to include adaptive multi-paddock grazing (AMP). These farmers can widely space columns of SunFarmor modules to create paddocks, while regenerating the land and collecting rainwater for their animals, obviating current labor and energy inputs. Although TrackerSled’s primary focus is the economic revitalization of rural communities, social entrepreneurs can use the simplified “pop-up” model for improving equity in other communities including indigenous nations, disinvested urban neighborhoods, municipal utilities, and community choice aggregations (CCAs) in counties suffering from persistent poverty.