What are agrivoltaics?
Agrivoltaics (also known as agrisolar) is the practice combining agricultural activities with solar photovoltaic panels on the same area of land. This co-location of solar panels and farms has created a new and dynamic field of industry generally referred to as agrivoltaics.
The interaction between crop and energy production is often synergistic, with both systems benefiting from the other. Benefits include crop protection, water conservation, improved soil, increased habitat and greater economic opportunity for land owners and continued agricultural employment.
Agrivoltaics can take many different forms, such a growing crops or grazing animals. The size and type of solar panel array, as well as the unique climate conditions of each farm are both important factors to consider when evaluating which type of agrivoltaics is best suited to your needs. The presence of PV panels and support structures can affect the growing conditions in the field; the panels cause shading which reduces the amount of sun available to the crops. However, most crops only absorb a fraction of the incoming sunlight for photosynthesis. In this way, agrivoltaic (AV) systems can be designed and managed as ‘solar sharing’ systems.
The shade created by panels increases water-use efficiency. In many instances, this reduces the need for irrigation. An additional positive interaction of water management under an AV system is related to the possible integration of gutters in the infrastructure, with storage. This would enable the collection of rainwater to be used for irrigation of cultivated crops or for cleaning of dust off of the panels themselves.
In AV systems, crops generate a passive cooling effect on PV panels, thanks to plant transpiration (the release of water from aerial organs of the plant to increase heat dissipation). Transpiration is a natural cooling mechanism that can dissipate up to 32.9% of the total absorbed solar energy by the leaves. This can increase yields as plants often benefit from cooler soil temperatures.