Committing 1% of U.S Farmland to Solar Panels Could Provide 20% of US Electricity, Farmbot, and a Summary of Japan’s Green Growth Strategy

by | Apr 29, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Committing 1% of U.S farmland to solar panels could provide 20% of US electricity, plus Farmbot! Also a summary of Japan’s Green Growth Strategy.



Co-developing land for solar photovoltaic power and agriculture could provide 20% of total electricity generation in the United States, with an investment of less than 1% of the annual U.S. budget, so concludes researcher Chad Higgins and co-author Kyle Proctor in a paper recently in the journal, Sustainability. 

Large-scale installation of agrivoltaic systems–a term coined by the researchers–could lead to an annual reduction of 330,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. That’s like taking 75,000 cars off the road. Installing the arrays would create the equivalent of 117,000 jobs over 20 years, with 40% representing sustainable positions to operate and maintain the arrays, the researchers say.

“Rural America, especially agriculture, can be the solution to many of our problems, be it renewable energy sources, mitigating the effects of climate change, sustainable food or good water resource management,” said Higgins. “This link is largely untapped because insufficient investment has been made in these communities. Higgins says that agrivoltaics provide a “rare chance for true synergy: more food, more energy, lower water demand, lower carbon emissions, and more prosperous rural communities. 

The project would have a projected 35-year lifespan, so the arrays would produce $35.7 billion in revenue.

Looking to the future, Higgins believes that large-scale installation of agrivoltaic systems opens the door to other technologies. The excess energy generated by the solar panels could be used to power electric tractors or to make fertilizer on a farm. Inexpensive sensors could be installed on the solar panel platforms to support decisions based on artificial intelligence to improve agricultural productivity. 

DEEPER DIVE: Oregon State Bee, Farm Progress



I came across this bit of technology the other day, and it’s so bananas, I had to share it. It’s called FarmBot. FarmBot is a robot farmer that comes with an open-source web application. This app allows users to setup, customize and control it. FarmBot is a DIY agriculture robot that will create and maintain your garden. The company claims setup can easily be completed within an hour. For those who were never really into gardening, FarmBot takes away all the hassle that traditional gardeners must go through by automating the process. 

(I get it. It’s like a Roomba, but for your garden!) 

FarmBot is a startup company that raised over $800K via crowdfunding in order to create its first DIY kit. The idea is a high-tech garden or small farm that can monitor just about every aspect of plants while controlling them is like a game. A 3D printed robot arm plants vegetables, waters them, monitors soil conditions, and captures images. Meanwhile, the farmer can control all the tools from a web app that functions a bit like if  the farm simulator video game “Stardew Valley” had a real-life companion. 

There are three reasons why FarmBot matters to us. First, precision farming has been hailed as the future of agriculture, sustainability, and the food industry. That’s why FarmBot is working to bring precision agriculture technology to environmentally conscious individuals for the first time. 

The second reason is climate change adaptation. Rising temperatures in farm belts across the world will decrease crop yields, This will lead to potential food shortages. Also, climate change adaptation will require drastically less use of diesel and gas, the primary energy sources for trucks and other food-transporting vehicles. So, growing local will provide a hedge against food insecurity.

Which brings up reason #3: With FarmBot, you can essentially farm from anywhere. And by “anywhere”, I mean vacant city lots (with permission of course), flat rooftops (if renting with landlord’s permission, of course), abandoned parking lots, or heck, for that matter in shipping containers, or even on your own patio. The reality is you don’t need a lawn. You just need a stable, robust flat surface, as well as access to water and electricity.

DEEPER DIVE: DigitalTrends, FarmBotForum, FarmBot, Business Insider, All Home Robotics


According to Japan’s government, gone are the days when countermeasures to global warming are considered as a cost or constraint to the economic growth, the world has entered a new era to grasp them as a great opportunity for further prosperity. That’s why integral to that nation achieving carbon neutrality by mid-century, Japan recently released its “Green Growth Strategy.”

Japan announced its intentions to articulate this broad-sweeping plan to reboot its society and its economy through the lens of climate change back in late 2020. However, the specifics, as laid out in this 80+ page document, was only just-released in a “provisional” English translation. 

The goal of the the Green Growth Strategy is to establish a set of industrial policies to create a “virtuous cycle of economy and environment”. Why this matters to us is that it provides a framework for our nation to move forward. As Seth Klein, author of “A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency,” says in his book—some things are so big, only governments can handle them.

So while it’s easy to speak about “changing from the mindset” and “transformation”, in reality, carbon neutrality will require an enormous effort. In industry, many companies will have to fundamentally change the business models and strategies they have been using. While, it’s also a chance for them to lead the new era. The role of the government is to provide full support to private companies in conducting their forward-looking challenges, such as a bold investment to make innovation.

DEEPER DIVE: Japan’s Green Growth Strategy, Positive News



A key point in Japan’s Green Growth Strategy policy is the country’s commitment to Electric Vehicles, or E-Vs. According to the ministry, Japan wants “to make electric vehicles account for one hundred percent of new passenger vehicles sold each year” sometime before the mid-2030s.

Earlier this year, General Motors announced that it would offer 30 new EVs by 2025. Perhaps that’s why Toyota also issued a simultaneous statement,  announcing its plans to produce an EV version of their entire lineup by as early as 2025. 

If you include Volvo, Toyota–Japan’s largest auto manufacturer–and Honda, ranked 7th in the world, four of the top ten automakers are committed to 100% electric within 15 years. Of particular note is Honda, the world’s number one maker of internal combustion engines for everything from lawn mowers to generators. This move commits them to retooling their entire lineup of motors from gas to electric. The announcement really could mark the end of the Petroleum Age.

This is great news since, by some estimates, transportation represents 28% of greenhouse gas emissions.