Sustainable Collaboration: Agrivoltaics at Chatfield Farms

December 29, 2022 Larry Vickerman , Director of Chatfield Farms

An innovative and impactful collaboration between Denver Botanic Gardens, Xcel Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the City of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability & Resiliency is culminating in an extensive, 4.5-acre solar array and agrivoltaics display at Chatfield Farms. Agrivoltaics, also known as agrisolar, is the combined use of land for agriculture and solar power generation. The electricity produced by this renewable source will not only provide enough power to operate Chatfield Farms, but also be used to provide electricity for low-income housing in Denver. 

This sustainable energy initiative is an integral part of the first phase of construction for the Chatfield Farms Master Development Plan, scheduled to begin in June of 2023.

Enough energy will be supplied through this solar array that natural gas lines will not need to be extended to power the new or existing buildings at Chatfield Farms. Electric air-source heat pumps will heat and cool all buildings powered by the renewable solar energy produced on site. 

Chatfield Farms will receive approximately 250,000 kWh per year of discounted power from the 1.2-megawatt array, which should be sufficient to provide electrical power for all existing and new buildings on the site. The remaining 750,000 kWh per year will provide electricity for low-income housing in Denver.

Xcel Energy has been assisting with upgrading the existing power line into Chatfield Farms to carry solar electricity to our campus and beyond to the electrical grid. This project demonstrates Xcel Energy’s commitment to partnering with customers and communities to advance clean energy production and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado as the company works towards becoming a net-zero energy provider by 2050.

Beneath the new solar array, Chatfield Farms staff will build an agrivoltaics demonstration and production farm. The agrisolar farm will produce mixed vegetables, herbs and fruit for Chatfield Farms’ many food partners and the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. It will also provide educational resources and inspiration to visitors and farmers locally and globally. NREL is working to secure grants to fund research and equipment to fully develop the agrivoltaics farm. The research will enhance the energy-water-land nexus this project encompasses.

The solar array, along with a robust new composting program to eliminate green waste generated from farming and horticulture, puts Chatfield Farms at the forefront of sustainable operations for Denver Botanic Gardens. We are excited to incorporate these pioneering technologies on our historical farm, aligned with our five-year institutional strategic plan and living out our core values of relevance, transformation and sustainability. 


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