Alfalfa growing beneath solar panels at the Buertai ecological photovoltaic (PV) demonstration base operated by Shendong Coal is entering the harvest season. The harvested herbs will be provided to local villagers to feed their domestic livestock under government guidance, thus forming a forage-livestock-fertilizer ecological economic cycle that helps to increase income of the villagers, fuel rural revitalization, and boost the development the local economy.
A joint venture between Shendong Coal and the government of Ejin Horo Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia, the Buertai ecological PV demonstration base adopts a comprehensive management mode that integrates ecological governance, PV power generation, modern agriculture, and others in the coal mining subsidence area. It practices the “forestry-PV complementary” and “fishery-PV complementary” models, according to which economic crops such as alfalfa and sea buckthorn are planted beneath and between photovoltaic panels to be used as forage while preventing wind and fixing sand and improving water conservation. This effort helps promote the construction of high-quality pastures and explore ways of transforming green resources into assets with developmental value.
In the PV demonstration base, alfalfa and other forage grasses are grown in areas totaling 25,000 mu (1 mu is equal to about 0.07 hectares). Thanks to effective field management approaches such as fertilization, watering, weeding, and pest control, three crops are cut each year, with each mu expected to produce 1.4 tonnes of fresh grass, yielding considerable economic benefits if calculated at 2,000 yuan per tonne. With a variety of management and operation modes for ecological governance, PV industry, forage industry, and animal husbandry industry in place, the coal mining subsidence area has achieved an all-win situation among the government, enterprises and villagers. The “subsidence area” has become a “scenic area,” blazing a path to circular economy that integrates power generation above panels, forage cultivation beneath panels, industrial revitalization, sand control and soil consolidation, and comprehensive utilization of water resources.