Agrivoltaics: Where Solar Energy Meets Agriculture

Pallavi Kumari

30th Aug'22

What is Agrivoltaics?

Agrivoltaics is a technique that is designed to produce both electricity and food using solar energy. It is also known as PV agriculture. It is based on the concept of joint development of both electricity and crop production for the same land area. With the increase in the use of solar panels and an attempt to conserve the environment, many experts believe that Agrivoltaics is the future that will help to synthesize food as well as electricity by using solar energy. It is also said that Agrivoltaics will be instrumental in meeting the global minimum food requirement. With few developments, Agrivoltaics is expected to be the future in the field of agriculture and for the generation of electricity.

 

agriculture

 

Working of Agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics require mounting solar panels at much higher heights than any usual solar arrays. The solar panels in Agrivoltaics are placed in such a way that it leaves the soil, making it suitable for agricultural production. As per the U.S. Department of Energy, it is estimated that rural areas of the United States will witness a growth in the construction of solar panels by around 90% by the year 2050. This fundamental growth in the use of solar panels will play a tremendous role in developing Agrivoltaics in rural areas. One way to carry out this technique is to set up the solar panels over the Greenhouse roof.

Agrivoltaics: Where Solar Energy Meets Agriculture will be critical to the development of the rural areas of any country. It can help the rural population by making farming easy and helping in the easier production of crops by using solar energy. The panels use solar energy to generate electricity for the local community and generate off-grid electricity that helps to farm.

 

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Uses of Agrivoltaics

Using land for multiple purposes can be very beneficial for the development of any state or country. Agrivoltaics, which is designed to use the land for the cultivation of crops and electricity production, is predicted to increase the productivity of the land by 70%. Other uses of Agrivoltaics are:

 

1. Prevents water loss and increased crop production

Research has shown that using solar panels for crop cultivation might prevent water loss by 40%. Also, the shade from solar panels is used for storing the water, and the wastewater produced while cleaning solar panels can be used in crop irrigation. Panel reduces the water intake of livestock and crops below the solar panels. One of the research found that an increase in temperature in springs and other water resources used under solar panels tends to save at least a liter of water per day. Prevention of water loss due to solar panels has managed to increase the yield of Corn. In research, it is found that rice cultivation by Agrivoltaics might help increase the yield percentage two times for the same piece of land.

 

2. Assist the Farmer

In countries like India, where a significant portion of the population depends on farming for their livelihood, there is always a high chance of damaging farmland due to soil erosion and many other factors. It is estimated that about 18 million acres of farmland in America will be lost by 2040 to Industrial development. So to counter this decreasing farmland and increasing food demand, techniques such as Agrivoltaics are crucial. One of the significant reasons leading to loss is the lack of productivity. Agrivoltaics focuses on increasing productivity and hence helps farmers generate more future yields.

 

3. Solving Disputes Regarding Land Use

Due to a lack of productivity and less profit, many lands of cultivation in America are being sold to private businesses. Also, land issues play a vital role in setting up solar panels. It is also said that renewable source of energy requires more land when compared to fossil fuels. Another thing with solar panels is that it needs to be constructed at a specific place. To increase efficiency, solar panels are often set up where maximum sunlight falls. Because of the greater visibility of Solar panels, farmers will be able to keep their farms safer than fossil fuels. Also, using solar panels might prevent the injustice in the pricing of fossil fuels. 

 

Setting up of agrivoltaics technique

Due to the benefits mentioned above and the increasing demand for renewable sources of energy. Techniques such as Agrivoltaics have been set up. The word Agrivoltaics was coined in the 1980s, and the implementation of these techniques started in the 21st century. Agrivoltaics is still practiced on a small scale, and so far, it has shown significant signs of increasing productivity and conserving the environment. However, research is being carried out to increase the use of Agrivoltaics. The Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has planned to set up over twelve programs under its initiative of InSpire. The range of these twelve programs is from testing rice productivity due to Agrivoltaics to pollinator-friendly flowers.

 

Benefits of Using Livestock

To increase the efficiency of the solar panels in increasing the productivity of crops, livestock is allowed to graze under the shade of solar panels. In this technique, a rooftop (usually of grass) is covered by solar panels, and under this solar panel-loaded rooftop, animals are allowed to graze. In increasing solar panels' efficiency, livestock plays a tremendous role in increasing vegetative production. For livestock grazing, most sheep are preferred because of their size. Raising panels to a certain height and allowing cows to graze under them can help save a significant amount of water because it's found that cows consume around 20-25 gallons of water every day.

 

Agrivoltaics Technique In Crops

Agrivolatics techniques are widely used for producing legumes, vegetables, and fruits by horticulture. To carry out these yields, solar panels in Italy were installed above vineyards. Potatoes that are resistant to shedding are cultivated using this technique in Belgium. Similar to this, agrivoltaics in America are used for growing lush strawberries, whereas, in Arizona, kale and cabbage cultivation was carried out using the Biosphere 2 project. Similarly, many countries worldwide have used the technique of Agrivoltaics to increase the productivity of their lands. Agrivoltaics in most of the country has played a positive role in preventing land loss and were found to be very effective in grazing their livestock.

Although Agrivoltaics has shown many positive results, researchers have found that installation of Agrivoltaics is not very easy; instead, it is pretty challenging.

 

Difficulties In The Installation Of Agrivoltaics

Installation of any project is always challenging. Similarly is the case with Agrivoltaics. Agrivoltaics: Where Solar Energy Meets Agriculture was developed to develop a method that can be used to produce electricity and crops simultaneously. The growth of different sets of crops requires a specific amount of water. This flat water was disturbed because of the rainwater runoffs from solar panels. This water imbalance affects the development of crops. As we know, agrivoltaics decrease water loss in the form of moisture. This retention of moisture might increase humidity below the shed of solar panels, ultimately resulting in new diseases and parasites. Another significant drawback of agrivoltaics is its installation cost. The cost of setting up photovoltaic cells for Agrivoltaics is very high. To fight these challenges, much research has been done, and many types of research suggest that it is possible to set up a technique that will be affordable and environment-friendly.


 

Final Thoughts

To conclude this blog on Agrivoltaics: Where Solar Energy Meets Agriculture, this blog covers everything you need to know about Agrivoltaics. In this post, we discussed the definition of Agrivoltaics, the uses of Agrivoltaics in various sections of agriculture and electricity production. We have also provided the plans for setting up Agrivoltaics. And in the end, we have provided the challenges in the Agrivoltaics technique. We hope this post answered all your doubts on Agrivoltaics. If you have questions regarding the Agrivoltaics, you can ask them below.

 

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Contributor: Nitish Chauhan

Nitish is a curious chef who loves to bake cupcakes of words. Nitish loves serving people a delicious cuisine of wisdom and knowledge, often adorned by sweet humor and an engaging tone. His objective is to serve his readers with the best possible content on their plate while also ensuring their appetite for seeking continues to proliferate. 

Pallavi is fond of exploring different industries in writing genres and trends on Instagram.

When she is not writing, she is thinking about sustainability and making her surrounding a better place.

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