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Why Muddy Creek Energy Park Chose This Location

At the heart of the Muddy Creek Energy Park facility’s success lies the strategic choice of its location in Linn County. 

We searched across the state for sites and substations that would meet our criteria. Sufficient open land was required for the Facility, along with enough landowners interested in participating in this unique agrivoltaic farming opportunity. Additionally, the location has to be outside of urban areas yet close to existing infrastructure but not on the side of cliffs or mountains. The facility is uniquely sited to minimize and mitigate for potential disturbances to natural resources in coordination with reviewing agencies.

In the end, we chose the Muddy Creek Energy Park facility site with thoughtful consideration of several key factors that make it the ideal place for Linn County’s first agrivoltaics farming project. Those factors include:

  • The site’s location, outside of residential neighborhoods and densely populated areas, means the Facility will operate without increasing traffic on local roads.
  • The site is also near the interstate, which will make access convenient during the construction phase without adding excessive congestion and will be cordindated to mimimize temporary impacts to surrounding farm activities on identified haul routes.
  • The site is naturally confined to an area with a highway to the west and partially screened by surrounding trees, vegetation, and human made structures which provide some visual buffering.
  • The site and surrounding areas are zoned Exclusive Farm Use, which limits the number of residences in the area and allows for solar development with conditions for approval.
  • The site is currently used for agricultural production – and will continue to be used for that purpose throughout and beyond the lifespan of the project.

Access to Existing Energy Infrastructure

One of the reasons we selected this site is due to its excellent access to existing energy infrastructure, which allows for more efficient electricity delivery to the grid. Siting projects near existing utility infrastructure reduces the costs of physical connectivity by enabling shorter cable runs and fewer poles. This minimizes disruptions to existing farm operations, as shorter runs often mean fewer easements through private property.

Additionally, the existing substation has sufficient capacity to accommodate the energy injection delivered by this project. The cable runs required for physical connection are not only short, efficient and cost-effective, but the substation itself is already equipped to handle a project of this scale, requiring only minor adjustments to ensure reliable operation.

The project is specifically designed for this site and to minimize disturbance of wetlands, special species habitats and potential cultural resources. The panels are mounted on driven steel piles, which allows more land to be reserved for farming. Though the project requires a large enough area of land to meet its needed generation capacity, the total area of impervious surfaces is a small fraction of the total land area within the project fenceline. For example, impervious surfaces from solar facility components such as the collector substation and operation and maintenance building foundations, steel piles, combiner box pads, gravel access roads, and fence posts are approximately 2 to 4 percent of the total fenced solar area.

The Right Partners

Linn County is home to many century farms, and one of those generational, family farmers, John Langdon, will oversee agriculture on the project. As a fourth-generation farmer, he knows and cares about the land and wants keep farming it for decades to come. He sees agrivoltaic farming as an opportunity to advance his family’s farm in an innovative way. Qcells, a national leader in solar energy, is working with Langdon and other local stakeholders to ensure the project meets the agricultural, renewable energy and economic needs of the Willamette Valley.

“This will be the farm of the future that people will come from far and wide to see,” he says. “Every year it’s harder and harder for a farm to make it. Everyone is looking for a new path. If you don’t move to the future, you’ll be part of the past.”

Solar Panels and Farming: A Great Match

We’re excited to work with our partners in Linn County to pioneer the regions first agrivoltaic project of this size, combining solar panels with traditional farming. This concept ensures that farmland remains in production while generating renewable energy. Some of the many benefits of agrivoltaic farming include:

  • Research into agrivoltaic systems shows a 60-70% increase in overall land-use efficiency. Agrivoltaics can reduce plant drought stress and heat stress, which leads to crop yield improvements.
  • Soil Health: The presence of solar panels helps maintain soil quality by reducing intensive agriculture activities like tilling and increasing biodiversity in the ground from revegetation following construction completion.
  • Shade and Sustainability: Solar panels provide essential shade to crops and ranch animals, improving their well-being while also enhancing crop quality. Findings suggest land productivity increased with dual-use farming of agriculture and sheep grazing and higher animal welfare has been observed.
  • Water Conservation: Agrivoltaic farming reduces evaporation and the need for excessive water, addressing critical water scarcity concerns. Research has found that areas under solar panels were significantly more water efficient (328% more efficient). Higher soil moisture content and water efficiency can lead to continual live plant/root growth beneath the panels maintaining soil integrity during solar operations and providing a healthy soil base for post solar operation activities. The Muddy Creek property has no water rights, making water efficiency particularly attractive.
  • Economic Prosperity: By combining agriculture with clean energy, we support local farmers, provide flexibility for their operations and contribute to the local tax base, ensuring ongoing community prosperity.