Agrivoltaics pairs solar panels with farming, solving multiple climate-caused problems

Agrivoltaics pairs solar panels with farming, solving multiple climate-caused problems

July 21, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

This photograph taken in Babberich, near Arnhem, on July 11, 2022 shows raspberry crops growing under solar panels at the Piet Albers agrivoltaic farm. - The Netherlands, which aims to become carbon neutral by 2050, sources less than 12 percent of its final energy consumption from renewables, as the world needs to install four times as much every year to keep the planet's temperature rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the International Energy Agency. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP) (Photo by FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS/AFP via Getty Images)

Agrivoltaics are being explored worldwide and researchers are already reporting benefits when it comes to boosting renewable energy and protecting crops.

Extreme temperatures and weather events are fast becoming the new normal thanks to climate change. With heat waves blistering the planet, researchers are finding creative ways to make the most of hot, sunny days through renewables while also addressing agriculture woes. Oregon Public Radio has a delightful write-up of an emerging solution clearly having a moment after more than a decade of obscurity. Agrivoltaics uses solar panels to shade and protect crops and even grazing animals while those panels generate electricity. Oregon State’s research farm in Corvallis has already embraced the technology and found that crops shielded by solar panels required less water. In turn, those same crops could be shielded from frost when temperatures drop.

Oregon State agriculture professor Chad Higgins explains how solar panels have already helped the university’s research farm crops amidst the current heat wave gripping more than 100 million Americans. “What they do is what we do when we’re out in the sun: we sweat,” Higgins told OPR.
”Plants do something similar where they use water to keep their leaves cool enough for photosynthesis so, if you take that stress off them, now they’re using less water.” Higgins found through research he co-authored two years ago that even just reserving 1% of farmland in the U.S. to be used for agrivoltaics could meet 20% of the country’s electricity needs through renewables, to say nothing of the profits earned from farming. “I think the keywords are: more food and better food, less water, extra revenue for the farm. It’s a four-way win for farmers,” Higgins told OPR.