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Agrovoltaics: maximising land use for renewable energy and agriculture

Updated: Feb 23

In recent years, a novel concept called agrovoltaics has emerged, combining solar energy and agriculture for efficient land use for clean energy production and agriculture. This new approach has great potential which can meet the challenges of climate change, food security, and renewable energy production. We will look at five key points highlighting the benefits and advantages of agrovoltaics backed by scientific research.


Sheep grazing next to ground mounted solar panels

Improving Land use Efficiency

By using the same plot of land for solar energy and agriculture, agrovoltaics increases land use efficiency up to 186% (Max Trommsdorff S. G., 2022). Farms using agrivoltaic systems instead of conventional agriculture for shade-tolerant crop can also increase their economic value by over 30% (Harshavardhan Dinesh a, 2016). This dual-purpose system provides an opportunity to convert unproductive or underutilized land into an asset.


Improved crop yield and quality

Excessive heat can adversely affect plant growth and productivity. Research has shown that agrovoltaics can increase crop yields and improve crop quality by reducing excess heat (Max Trommsdorff I. S., 2022). The shade provided by solar panels in agrovoltaic systems helps regulate temperature and reduces the amount of stress being exerted on the crops.


Enhanced Soil Moisture and Grass Growth

Preliminary results from pilot a study from the University of Massey indicate the shade provided by solar panels in agricultural systems helps maintain soil moisture, improving grass growth and increasing nutrient value (Early research could inform future design of farm-based solar panels, 2023). Reduced humidity and improved water conservation help to create a more favourable microclimate for plant growth, benefiting grasses planted between and around solar panels. This approach promotes sustainable land management and offers potential for livestock grazing.


Improved Animal Welafre

Agrovoltaics not only benefit crops but also contribute to animal welfare. The shade provided by solar panels provides protected areas where animals can take a break from the sun during hot weather (Alex Sandro Campos Maia a, 2020). This shade greatly contributes to animal comfort, reducing heat stress, and improves their overall well-being. By providing an environment favourable to animal welfare, agrovoltaics aligns with sustainable and ethical farming practices


Dual Income Stream for Farmers

One of the main advantages of agrovoltaics is that it can provide a dual income to farmers. In addition to selling their agricultural produce, farmers can also supply the grid with surplus electricity generated by solar panels. This added income from renewable energy sources diversifies farmers’ incomes, making agrovoltaics an attractive option for farmers seeking economic resilience in the current unpredictable climate.



Agrovoltics offers a sustainable and innovative approach that optimizes land use for clean energy production and crop production. Scientific research supporting agrovoltaics highlights its potential to increase crop yields, maintain soil moisture, improve animal welfare, and generate additional income for farmers. By embracing agrovoltaics, we can move towards a more sustainable future where renewable energy and agriculture coexist harmoniously, addressing pressing global challenges.



References


Alex Sandro Campos Maia a, E. d. (2020). Photovoltaic panels as shading resources for livestock. Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 258.


Early research could inform future design of farm-based solar panels. (2023, June 12). Retrieved from Massey University NZ: https://www.massey.ac.nz/about/news/early-research-could-inform-future-design-of-farm-based-solar-panels/


Harshavardhan Dinesh a, J. M. (2016). Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. The potential of agrivoltaic systems, 299-308.


Max Trommsdorff, I. S. (2022). Agrivoltaics: solar power generation and food production. Solar Energy Advancements in Agriculture and Food Production Systems, 159-210.


Max Trommsdorff, S. G. (2022). Agrivoltaics: Opportunities for Agriculture and the Energy Transition . Freiburg: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.



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