Interesting ! Solar Panels used in farmland

  • The microgeneration of electricity using solar panels for farms has recently received a lot of attention.
  • Growing crops under photovoltaic displays can provide a unique set of agricultural and environmental benefits.
  • Research shows that the benefits of agrivoltaics cut both ways—that growing plants beneath solar panels can actually improve the performance of the panels themselves, not just the plants.

Solar panels are one of the efforts made in this renewable energy transition to achieve Net Zero Emissions. The use of solar panels has advantages for both the environment and people. Solar panels, which use solar energy to generate electricity, are also becoming more popular in homes as a replacement for environmentally friendly electrical energy sources. However, solar panels are now being used in agriculture. Why are solar panels installed on farmland?

The microgeneration of electricity using solar panels for farms has recently received a lot of attention. Researchers in the new scientific (and literal) field of agrivoltaics are demonstrating how panels can increase yields while reducing water use on a warming planet.

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Agrivoltaics is the exciting approach of using agricultural areas to produce food while also producing photovoltaic electricity. Agrivoltaics, also known as “dual-use solar,” is already well known in a number of European and Asian countries, most notably Japan, where nearly 2,000 agrivoltaic installations currently generate more than 200 megawatts of electricity—enough to power more than 32,000 homes—and cover more than 120 different crops. Dual-use solar is rapidly expanding in this densely populated country where agricultural land is scarce, as farmers, clean energy advocates, and government officials learn more about its benefits.

The very real financial returns that can be obtained by generating and using your own electricity and lowering your bills have sparked a surge in interest in investing in solar technology. Solar panels generate electricity in the fields, benefiting both farmers and the environment. They are a low-noise, low-waste way of generating electricity for the grid.

An example of solar panel use on agricultural land is Jack’s Solar Garden in Boulder County, Colorado, where owner Byron Kominek has covered four of his twenty-four acres with solar panels. Carrots, kale, tomatoes, garlic, beets, radishes, lettuce, and other crops are being grown beneath them. It has also produced enough electricity to power 300 homes.

Recently, the field of agrivoltaics has emerged to investigate methods of incorporating solar arrays into farmland without sacrificing that farmland’s arability, effectively allowing landowners to cultivate crops while also producing clean energy. According to research, growing crops under photovoltaic displays can provide a unique set of agricultural and environmental benefits. The shade provided by the panels, for example, allows the soil to retain more water, requiring less irrigation. Barron-research Gafford’s in the Arizona desert revealed that crops grown beneath solar panels required 50% less water.

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Solar panels can also help protect crops from hailstorms, high winds, and extreme cold and heat, reducing their vulnerability to extreme weather events. There is even evidence that certain crops grow better, stronger, and longer when protected by solar panels than they would otherwise, especially in hotter, arid growing environments. As already hot and sunny parts of the world become even hotter and sunnier, the implications for the climate, crops, and farmers themselves are enormous.

Fascinatingly, research shows that the benefits of agrivoltaics cut both ways—that growing plants beneath solar panels can actually improve the performance of the panels themselves, not just the plants. Because extreme heat reduces photovoltaic cell efficiency, they generate more energy when the environment around them is cooler. Placing dense vegetation beneath panels increases ground shade and humidity, resulting in cooler photovoltaic cells and higher energy yields. According to one recent study, panels with vegetation beneath them generated 10% more energy than those placed over gravel.

The shade provided by the towering panels above the soil actually aided the plants’ growth. That sporadic shade also meant a lot less evaporation of valuable irrigation water. In turn, the evaporation kept the sun-baked solar panels cooler, making them more efficient.

Editor: Riana Nurhasanah

References:

[1]SOLAR PANELS FOR FARMS

[2]Made in the Shade: The Promise of Farming with Solar Panels

[3]Growing Crops Under Solar Panels? Now There’s a Bright Idea

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