The Power of Neighborliness: Regenerative Energy® Origin Story

by Chris Lunghino | December 22, 2020

Regenerative Energy® came to be thanks to people committed to being good neighbors. Good neighbors to people and to natural resources, locally and globally.

In June of 2018, when regenerative rancher Will Harris of White Oak Pastures learned that Silicon Ranch would be building a solar farm next to his family’s farming operations in Bluffton, Georgia, he invited his new neighbors to visit. And during the visit, they discussed a novel concept: Will could use regenerative farming practices, including managed grazing of sheep and pasture-raised poultry, to holistically manage the vegetation on Silicon Ranch’s solar farm and and keep the land in agricultural production.

This concept was a clear fit for Silicon Ranch’s core values. We choose the right path over the easier path to get the job done. We listen, learn, and respond. We believe in the power of collaborative partnerships. And we believe solar energy projects–when developed responsibly—create enduring, long-term value and deliver a meaningful legacy to their communities.

I was the lucky Silicon Ranch team member that was chosen to explore the viability of the concept of using regenerative farming practices to manage vegetation on solar farms, then write a white paper. This was the perfect project for me – my personal and professional mission is to create a culture that prioritizes regeneration. I spent three months researching and developing the concept, from evaluating the opportunity to replace mechanical and chemical-based land management with holistic, animal-based land management, to understanding its potential to sequester carbon and generate marketable carbon offsets, improve water quality, and restore biodiversity, to the possibility of creating new jobs and revenue streams, benefitting local economies, and increasing land productivity and value. The white paper and our visionary leadership team concluded that the responsibility to be good land stewards and the opportunity to achieve valuable outcomes were compelling.

And so, Regenerative Energy® was born—a transformational new standard of excellence for the solar industry that harnesses the power of the sun and the power of regenerative agriculture to deliver two crops on one piece of land–clean solar electricity and grass-fed meats–as well as healthy soil and water, increased biodiversity, sequestered carbon, and revitalized rural communities.

In December of 2018, six months after we first considered marrying solar farming and regenerative farming, we hired Michael Baute, the first ever Director of Regenerative Energy & Land Management for a solar company, to lead the Regenerative Energy® strategy and implement the platform on the ground. Under Michael’s leadership, we partner with regenerative ranchers to deliver Regenerative Energy®.

Together with our rancher partners, we’re helping meet the need for resilient energy and food systems by generating clean energy and raising “solar farm to table” lamb and poultry to supply regional restaurants and grocery stores, as well as your kitchen! And we have the first ever solar farm land verified as ‘regenerative’ by the Savory Institute Ecological Outcome Verification assessment protocol, which measures the health of the land as a living system. This protocol was developed in collaboration with leading soil scientists, ecologists, agronomists, and an extensive network of regenerative land managers around the world.