Solar Garden in CO Shines Spotlight on Efficient Agriculture, 10/6/2020.

Jack’s Solar Garden LLC, a solar energy company, celebrated the opening of its five-acre, 1.2-megawatt solar panel and agriculture farm Friday near Longmont.

Art, music and conversations about renewable energy occurred underneath the farm’s 8-foot-tall panels.

The family-owned and operated company has been working on this project for several years. It’s owned by Byron Kominek and his parents, Eloise and Kurt Kominek. Byron Kominek said the company is named after his grandfather on his mother’s side, Jack, from whom he inherited 24 acres.

One field is dedicated to Jack’s Solar Garden. The land is used for agrivoltaics, or the process of co-developing the same land for solar power and agriculture.

Kominek said construction started at the end of June and will finish next month. The grid will be turned on by the end of October. Planting of crops by Denver-based Sprout City Farms Inc. is scheduled for spring of 2021.

The benefit of this farming technique is that the solar panels provide shade for the crops, creating a more mild environment that encourages growth, said Jill Engel-Cox, director of the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The water vapor released from the plants will help cool the solar panels, ensuring a higher yield of solar energy, she said.

NREL researches throughout the U.S., but is based in Golden. It is partnering with Jack’s Solar Garden to perform agrivoltaics research on two acres of land.

“Jack’s Solar Garden is not only important for Boulder and for Colorado but for the nation,” Engel-Cox said. “Success at Jack’s can really be a model for how we can do even more renewable energy going forward.”

Kominek said that the majority of Jack’s Solar Garden grid is already subscribed out with some room left for commercial and residential use. Last month, the city of Boulder became a major subscriber, purchasing 4% of Jack’s solar grid for a 20-year subscription, as reported by BizWest.

Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner said the county was one of Jack’s first subscribers, buying 10% of the grid, or 327 panels.

I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to see more projects like this throughout the county, and it’ll be received in a positive way,” Gardner said.

Boulder-based marijuana grower In the Flow Cannabis is Jack’s Solar Garden’s largest subscriber to date, purchasing 25% of the grid, Kominek said.

Jack’s is a part of Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards Community program and is able to sell subscriptions through Xcel Energy Inc., Kominek said.

Pete Wernick, who’s known to fans of the bluegrass band Hot Rize as “Dr. Banjo,” offered to perform for the event. He’s a part of Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, a church in Lafayette that subscribed to Jack’s.

“I’m very concerned about the future of the world and the future of our country, and I just think solar energy is part of the solution,” he said.

Prue Larson, who is on the building committee for the church, said that Boulder Valley UU Fellowship subscribed for 20 panels.

Colorado State University graduate student Christopher Toy will be one of the students from the university using Jack’s Solar for research. CSU will use seed varieties with flowers to be pollinator resources. It will also observe how different irrigation systems affect yield. Jack’s Solar will also host researchers from the University of Arizona to study the co-location of agriculture with solar farming.