What is Agrivoltaics?
Put simply, Agrivoltaics is the practice of combining agriculture with solar energy production. Or in other words Agrivoltaics is the co-location of solar panels and some sort of agricultural practice beneath or sometimes between rows of the panels. It has gained widespread attention and is becoming very popular, especially in more rural areas for its potential benefits, but there are also several factors to think about.
When considering Agrivoltaics, it’s important to consult professionals who are prepared to help you get the best possible results.
Here are three factors associated with Agrivoltaics and things to consider:
Land Use Competition: One of the primary challenges of Agrivoltaics is the competition for land between solar panels and agricultural crops. While the idea aims to maximize land use efficiency, there is still a very intricate balance to be struck between optimizing energy production and maintaining viable agricultural yields. Finding the right balance requires careful planning and management. Land that is considered marginal for agriculture can include areas that have steep slopes, poor soils and generally have low yield potential, severe environmental issues or both. Taking these issues into consideration when identifying potential solar sites can help in continuing to farm the most productive land while protecting sensitive and low productivity acres, if proper agrivoltaic practices are employed.
Shading and Light Management: The positioning of solar panels can cast shadows on crops, impacting their overall growth and yield. This shading effect can vary depending on factors like panel height, spacing, and orientation. Managing the shading to minimize its negative impact on crops while still maximizing solar energy production is a complex challenge that requires continuous monitoring and adjustment.
Water Use and Soil Health: Agrivoltaic systems can alter the microclimate within the agricultural area, affecting factors such as temperature, humidity, and water availability. Solar panels can help reduce evaporation and provide shade that might benefit some crops, but they can also alter water distribution patterns. Additionally, the installation of solar panels could impact soil health, nutrient cycling, and the growth of beneficial organisms in the soil. Proper irrigation and soil management strategies are crucial to maintaining healthy crop growth.
What is a good agrivoltaic option: Planting perennial vegetation for grazing is a great option. Planting perennial vegetation around and between the solar panels accomplishes many goals. First, the vegetation persists year-round which means it is protecting the soil from erosion which can be intensified by solar panel run-off. It also is a great way to mitigate stormwater surge issues. Finally, this type of vegetation can provide forage for sheep and other grazing animals while also maintaining the vegetation height below the solar panel edges reducing the need for mechanical mowing.
Incorporating agricultural practices into solar fields requires interdisciplinary collaboration among experts in agriculture, renewable energy, and environmental science. Contact us at FDCE to learn how you can get started today.