Agrivoltaics - Agriculture and Solar can co-exist
Agrivoltaics is possibly a word you’ve never heard before. In this blog we discuss what it is and why it’s got a big part to play in the transition to renewable energy.
What is Agrivoltaics?
Agrivoltaics, also known as agro-photovoltaics, agrisolar, or dual-use solar, is the use of areas of land for both agricultural farming and solar farming.
It allows plots of land to have a dual use, as the crops on the agricultural farm utilise the sun to grow and the solar farms use the sun to generate solar power.
The solar farms can also act as shade for the crops and help with temperature control. giving them an additional benefit.
The practice can benefit both the farming and energy industry through revenue generation and renewable energy production..
How does agrivoltaics work?
Agrivoltaics vastly improves the productivity of the land the farms are situated on.
Crops are planted in the ground, then an array of solar panels (also known as photovoltaic panels) are built over the crops, maximising the amount of sun through design features and positioning.
As the crops utilise the sun to grow, the solar panels use the sun to generate clean energy, later used to help power the farm or your home. The process helps increase food production and also improves energy security.
It has been found that with the use of agrivoltaics, a significant saving in evaporation was recorded, conserving water use. As well as this, research shows that the heat levels underneath the panels on hot days are lower, delaying the plants from drying out and helping the plants grow, and also providing shade for livestock. Ultimately, agrivoltaics is better for the crops and the surrounding environment.
Where can you find agrivoltaic farming?
Agrivoltaic theories can be traced back to the early 1980s, with the first experimental agrivoltaic plots being built in the early 2000s.
The practice has become more popular over the last 10 years however it’s still a relatively unknown thing.
North America has a much higher percentage of Agrivoltaics, with lots of universities researching the process and many farmers making use of the high temperatures to generate solar power at the same time as protecting their crops from the heat.
Agrivoltiacs are also becoming more popular in places like Africa, where super high temperatures can affect a crop yield, and so solar panels play a part in keeping their fields cool, whilst also generating them electricity.
Agrivoltaics can be found on some rooftops in Colorado, too, as the university there is a leader in research for energy systems.
In the UK, Agrivoltaics can be found in places like Wymeswold solar farm, Leicestershire, as well as a few other farms. One of these is a project we support, Southill Community Energy in Oxfordshire, who have installed a cattle fence around their solar farm, allowing for the cattle to graze on part of their site.
How can agrivoltaic farming help the climate crisis?
Solar energy, being a renewable energy source, produces no greenhouse gases and doesn’t contribute to global warming. This means that the use of solar panels on farmland is another step in the right direction for removing our reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels.
With an increase in demand for renewable energy sources and green energy, solar power is at the forefront of the fight against climate change. And with the ability to combine land with farming and solar installation, this is a positive step to reducing our electricity costs and helping the planet.
It has also been said that agrivoltaics can support climate resilience, read more about this and our food and energy security in the future here.
Agrivoltaic farming and community energy
Agrivoltaics could play a huge part in community energy generation in the future.
Theoretically, if agricultural land was given to build solar panels, community energy groups would have more space to build their solar farms, generating more energy for their communities to use.
This would allow for partnerships between community energy groups and farmers, helping out both parties and generating more revenue from agricultural business and energy generation, allowing them to give back more to the community.
Find out how Younity supports community energy groups here and head to our blog for more community energy insights