Agrivoltaics is a great way to improve the efficiency of a solar farm and the use of farmland.
Agrivoltaics is the use of solar farms in the same land as agricultural land to produce food and electricity. To do this, solar panels are mounted at a greater height than usual. This leaves more space underneath and leaves the soil for agricultural production. This practice has a lot of different names including agrisolar, agrophotovoltaics, solar sharing, and PV agriculture.
According to a report by Treehugger, this practice has a lot of benefits, for both the environment and for the farmer. The solar panels provide shade to the ground beneath them. This shade can reduce evaporation of moisture from the soil, up to 40% less moisture lost, so this can help save water.
The shade and the saved water helps reduce the water needed by crops or livestock underneath the panes.
Also, the vegetation underneath the panels captures heat, and reduces the overall farm temperature. This cools down the panels, improving their efficiency.
But agrivoltaics can also be very helpful for farmers. Across the world and across the U.S. farmland is getting lost due to residential and industrial development. “Smart solar” is a practice that the American Farmland Trust recommends, which makes farming more profitable and protects farmland from residential development. Also, it makes the land affordable for younger generations.
Agrivoltaics is a practice that has great potential in the future, 90% of projected solar growth in the United States will happen in rural areas. Using agrivoltaics can reduce the impact of solar development on rural communities and wildlife.
Despite all the benefits that agrivoltaics has, it also presents challenges. The solar panels above the crops increase the humidity due to decreased evaporation, which can lead to diseases or parasites. Another obstacle is the price; solar farms present an initial investment that may be a challenge for farmers, however, recent studies project that solar energy will be a lot cheaper in the future.
Overall, agrivoltaics is one of the most promising features of solar farms and a smart usage of land.