Posted on June 28, 2019 by Sustainable Food News

Regenerative ag pioneer teams up with oil giant’s solar arm

Shell's U.S. solar business sets up 350,000 solar panels next door to White Oak Pastures

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell plc, better known as Shell, said its U.S. solar energy business has teamed up with one of the nation’s leading regenerative ranchers, Will Harris of White Oak Pastures, Georgia’s largest certified-organic farm and grass-fed beef producer, to deploy its new regenerative energy production standards.

Shell, also the world’s fifth largest company, said its Nashville, Tenn.-based Silicon Ranch Corporation, a major solar power energy producer, has launched a new program called Regenerative Energy, which the company describes as a “verified, third-party certified product that combines clean electricity generation with carbon sequestration, ecosystem restoration, and rural economic revitalization.”

Silicon Ranch’s first new-build projects consisting of more than 350,000 solar panels and designed with the new standards are currently under construction on 3,700 acres in southwest Georgia – next door to White Oak Pastures.

“White Oak Pastures is honored to help Silicon Ranch transform ‘renewable energy production’ into ‘regenerative energy production,'” said Harris. “Developing the management system that naturally draws down millions of tons of atmospheric carbon, on hundreds of thousands of acres of land, while enriching dozens of impoverished local communities and helping to meet the significant food demands of the future is noble work. I am grateful to be a part of helping Silicon Ranch perfect the protocol to do it.”

In recent years, Harris, a fourth-generation cattleman, instituted a Serengeti Plains rotational grazing model on his 3,200-acre ranch, rotating complimentary animal species side-by-side to graze and fertilize pastures.

The cows graze the grass, the sheep and goats prefer the weeds, and the poultry species peck at the roots, bugs and grubs, and all of them naturally fertilize the land. Harris raises 10 species of livestock: cattle, goats, sheep, hogs, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and guinea fowl.

White Oak Pastures will help introduce such a grazing model to the land around Silicon Ranch’s new solar power project, which will help prevent erosion under the solar panels while drawing carbon from the atmosphere.

White Oak Pastures, also the nation’s largest pastured-poultry operation, is also an accredited hub of the Savory Institute, implementing holistic and regenerative farm and ranch management programs such as carbon sequestration in an effort to mitigate the impact of climate change.

According to results of a recent Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of White Oak Pasture’s grass-fed beef business, which comprise about half of the company’s sales, the operation offsets more than 100 percent of its grass-fed beef carbon emissions and as much as 85 percent of its total carbon emissions.

Silicon Ranch said it has partnered with nonprofit Restore the Earth Foundation, which Shell also funds, to develop the new program’s standards to measure and verify the relationship between regenerative land use practices on solar farms and corresponding environmental, social, and economic outcomes such as:

  • sequestered carbon, biologically active soil, and improved soil formation and stabilization
  • improved air and water quality and increased water quantity
  • increased biodiversity and enhanced overall ecosystem functions
  • established pollinator habitat and endangered species habitat

Silicon Ranch said it has begun integrating Regenerative Energy standards into designs for solar projects in ColoradoTennesseeArkansas, and Mississippi, with a plan to transition its entire operating portfolio, which includes more than 120 facilities in 14 states.

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