Holistically Managing Solar Land to Achieve Meaningful Outcomes

Regenerative Energy® co-locates solar energy generation and regenerative agriculture. We understand that taking responsibility for our solar land footprint is both an obligation and an opportunity—an obligation to be good land stewards and an opportunity to achieve valuable outcomes that benefit local communities, our customers, the planet, and future generations.

Our Land
Silicon Ranch manages solar land across a range of ecoregions, each with its own climate, biodiversity, and soil type, and each piece of land with its own history. The ecoregions determine how we can nurture the land to achieve common outcomes.

The Central California Valley ecoregion is comprised of flat, intensively farmed plains and has a hot, Mediterranean climate with long, hot dry summers and cool wet winters.

The Mojave Basin and Range ecoregion encompass a series of warm deserts, broad basins, and scattered lower-elevation mountains stretching from interior southern California through southern Nevada and into northwestern Utah. It has an arid climate with extreme temperatures during its two distinct seasons – extreme cold during winter nights and extreme heat in summer.

The Arizona/New Mexico Plateau ecoregion features varied topography from plains and mesa tops to elevated tableland side slopes, with associated varied climates ranging from warm, dry climates in the south and west to a colder, semi-arid climate in the east, and a temperate, semi-arid climate in the north.

The Sonoran Basin and Range ecoregion consists of large, flat areas and scattered low mountains with winter rainfall highest in the west, driven by storms moving in from the ocean, and summer rainfall highest in the east, resulting from more southerly storms pushed north and inland as part of the North American monsoon.

The Chihuahuan Deserts ecoregion comprises broad basins and valleys bordered by sloping alluvial fans and terraces, with isolated mesas and mountains, and has an arid climate with long, hot summers and short winters.

The South Central Plains is an ecoregion of irregular plains dominated by pine forest that has a humid subtropical climate with fairly consistent rainfall year-round.

The hot, low-lying Southern Coastal Plain ecoregion is nearly level and contains concentrations of swamps, marshes, and lakes. The region features a sub-tropical climate, with mild winters, hot, sunny summers, and a defined rainy season from May through October.

The Interior Plateau ecoregion, extending from southern Indiana and Ohio to northern Alabama, is a diverse landscape that generally consists of warm moist summers and cool winters, with rolling to deeply dissected rugged terrain and areas of karst topography.

The Piedmont ecoregion, stretching from south central Maryland to east central Alabama through portions of 6 states (Alabama, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, & Maryland), has varied topography and a broad climactic range, but generally features hot, humid summers with frequent downpours of short duration and warm, and frequently dry winters.

The Ridge and Valley ecoregion is a diverse region stretching northeast and southwest along almost the entire length of the Appalachian Mountains. The terrain is relatively low-lying and flatter than most of the Appalachians, with long ridges and valleys and rolling hills. It has a humid continental climate in the north, and a humid subtropical climate in the south; because it covers such a long distance, there is a significant difference in the severity of winters between its southern and northern ends.

The Northeastern Coastal Zone comprises terrain consisting of irregular plains, sometimes interspersed with tall hills, and has a humid continental climate with warm summers and rather severe winters and roughly equally distributed precipitation year-round.

Featured Regenerative Energy® Projects and Characteristics of U.S. EPA Level III Ecoregions Home to Silicon Ranch Projects

The way we manage our land matters. We treat each piece of land as the unique environment it is. We honor the richness of diversity and place by innovating, adapting, and responding to local events and conditions. We tailor our land management and the practices and tools we use to local cultural, environmental, and economic conditions.

Southwestern Appalachians

The Southwestern Appalachians ecoregion features a relatively mild climate year-round, with warm moist summers and cool winters. The ecoregion is characterized by open low mountains and rolling or hilly terrain, with ridges and ravines running southwest. The most common soils found are inceptisols in the mountains, which erode and leach easily, and utisols elsewhere. Utisols have an abundance of clay, drain poorly, and have low organic content.

Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Farm

Nestled between a forest, a wetland, and Volkswagen’s automotive manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, the Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Farm is a revolutionary project for solar land management and soil revitalization.

Silicon Ranch built the 7.6 MWac power plant in 2012 on a brownfield – a groundbreaking practice at this time. The land formerly served as a Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant, which produced TNT for 25 years and then supported a chemical fertilizer plant for two decades. Since 2012, we have sustained the 79 acres of land housing the solar plant, including its healthy wetland and forest areas, without the use of any pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. The vegetation has thrived, despite the high clay content of the soils. With careful conventional mowing services provided by our long-term land management partner, Tyler Menne, a soil scientist, committed land steward, and owner of Appalachian Land Design, we have maintained the vegetation so that it holds the soils in place and does not shade the solar panels for nine years.

In May, 2021, Silicon Ranch’s Regenerative Energy® team partnered with Tyler to begin managing the Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Farm regeneratively. Through holistic planned sheep grazing and other holistic practices, we will help regenerate the land, building topsoil under our solar panels, enhancing biodiversity, catalyzing carbon sequestration, and improving soil water retention capacity, while maintaining vegetation to prevent shading of the solar modules.

Southeastern Plains

Generally humid and subtropical, the Southeastern Plains ecoregion features wet and partly cloudy weather year-round. The land is characterized by mostly flat to gently rolling karst topography with a mosaic of cropland, pasture, woodland, and forest.

Its soils typically consist of sand, silt, and clay, and are highly erodible and resistant to water retention.

The Regenerative Energy® team manages several Silicon Ranch solar farms in the Southeastern Plains ecoregion, including Selmer I and II, Hattiesburg, Snipesville I and II, Clay, Odom, Baxley, Cedar Springs, Lancaster, and Bancroft Station. In a region that receives high annual precipitation with generally unstable soils, we are beginning the land restoration process as early as possibly by contracting farmers and ranchers to stabilize soils well ahead of construction using both cover crop seed mixes and a perennial species seed mix.

Bancroft Station Solar Farm

Bancroft Station is the Regenerative Energy® Center of Excellence, where, together with the White Oak Pastures team, we are developing best practices, conducting co-location research, and developing a training program for land managers and solar developers alike.

In 2020, as the construction of the solar farm was nearing completion, Regenerative Energy® began transitioning the land-use type to a perennial grassland using regenerative land management practices, such as holistic planned grazing of sheep and pasture-raised poultry to assist in soil stabilization efforts, improve soil health, and control the typical post-construction erosion.

The land housing this solar farm was previously a conventional cropping system of peanuts and cotton on rotation, typical of the region’s agricultural heritage.

Hattiesburg Solar Farm

The 50 MWac Hattiesburg Solar Farm was constructed in 2017 and acquired by Silicon Ranch. The land housing this project has large areas of poorly drained soils, where invasive 8-foot-tall wetland reeds had taken hold.  We transitioned the 450-acre project to Regenerative Energy® in 2019 using holistic planned sheep grazing with Cabriejo Ranch. The implementation of regenerative land management practices has led to significant improvements to the land, including increased and more diverse vegetative cover and increased organic matter in soils. This has led to better water infiltration and less standing water, as well as an increase in biodiversity of grassland species throughout the project.

Mississippi Valley Loess Plains

A narrow region stretching north-south along the Mississippi River, the Mississippi Valley Loess Plains ecoregion has a humid and subtropical climate, with precipitation mostly equally distributed year-round. The area features oak-hickory-pine and natural vegetation, with thick loess—fine sediment that accumulates from wind-blown dust. The topography is hilly and irregular, with gently rolling hills and some bluffs along the river. The soils are deep, fine-textured, and easily erodible.

In Spring 2019, we partnered with Cabriejo Ranch to begin retrofitting four solar farms in the Mississippi Valley Loess Plains to Regenerative Energy®, all in Tennessee — the Providence, Ripley, Haywood, and Millington Solar Farms. 

Before the transition to Regenerative Energy®, these sites faced typical post-construction erosion issues and struggled to establish healthy vegetation. With the introduction of Regenerative Energy® management, including animal impact and holistic planned sheep grazing, these sites have seen significant improvements to the land, with both increased vegetative cover and greater diversity within the species composition.

Sheep at Providence Solar Farm trample hay to mitigate erosion and restore soil health
Millington Solar Farm

Silicon Ranch’s Millington project is a 53 MWac solar power plant developed in partnership with the City of Millington, the U.S. Navy, Memphis Light, Gas and Water, and TVA, with land management provided by Cabriejo Ranch. At 420-acres, Millington is the largest site in this West Tennessee Regenerative Energy cluster of projects. Close to a quarter of this land is leased from the Navy and was previously considered an annual maintenance and cost burden by the Navy.

Providence Solar Farm

Silicon Ranch’s 16 MWac, 118-acre Providence Solar Farm was constructed in 2017 on land previously used for growing cotton and grain. Certain areas of the site struggled to establish vegetation after construction, and erosion began to develop. Ranching partner Cabriejo Ranch used animal impact to address this issue, with a specific technique we call trample mulching, in which areas of erosion are seeded and sheep are fed fresh hay directly on top of the area. While feeding, the sheep’s hooves help smooth out sharp erosion banks and stomp in the seeds, and their manure fertilizes the soils. Much of the hay that the sheep do not eat creates a mulch layer, providing an armor on the soils that protects them against future erosion. This area will receive multiple similar prescriptive treatments to halt and reverse erosion. After the transition to regenerative land management practices, we have also seen quantifiable increases in biodiversity, including more rabbits, meadowlarks, and red-tailed hawks. We are monitoring ecological outcomes, and management strategies will continue to improve this land over time

High Plains

The High Plains ecoregion is characterized by a semi-arid climate with low moisture, silty and sandy loam soils, high elevation, and often, extreme temperatures. The water cycle, unique to this climate, results in droughts and floods. Drought-resistant grama and buffalo grasses (short grasses) are the predominant natural vegetation.

Regenerative Energy® manages three Silicon Ranch solar farms in the High Plains of Colorado: Rattlesnake, Platte Valley, and Mavericks. Still in development, this Regenerative Energy® cluster of projects is expected to provide the High Plains with a strong example of co-locating solar energy and regenerative agriculture in a brittle environment.

Rattlesnake Solar Farm

Rattlesnake Solar Farm is just east of Platteville, Colorado, in Weld County and comprises a 309-acre property with 175 acres of land under modules. This project is anticipated to be the Mountain West Regenerative Energy® Center and will highlight the unique attributes of co-location in arid environments. The land was previously zoned industrial and housed a turkey-concentrated animal feeding operation.