top of page

The Growing Use of Agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics - growing crops under solar installations - is a good way to maximize land use. It also makes the solar panels last longer. It's one of those great win win ideas.

Solar arrays mounted above crops
Agrivoltaics | Wikipedia

Agrivoltaics, agrophotovoltaics, agrisolar, or dual-use solar is the simultaneous use of areas of land for both solar photovoltaic power generation and agriculture, with everything from mushrooms to broccoli growing beneath arrays. This has proven beneficial for farmers, in some cases increasing yields, reducing water use and, of course, adding another income stream from the energy produced by the panels. And, it turns out, it benefits the solar panels too, improving their performance and longevity by keeping them cooler.

Agrivolatics is about achieving multiple objectives, explains Max Zhang, a professor at Cornell University and senior author of a study recently published in Applied Energy on those benefits to solar panels. “We have an imperative need to deploy renewable energy as much as we can to combat the impact of climate change, but at the same time, there’s also an important need to preserve farmland for food security,” he says.

For this latest paper, researchers looked at different surface temperature data from solar farms. It’s “well recognized,” Zhang says, that higher temperatures can decrease the lifetime and efficiency of solar panels but, happily, they found that solar panels mounted 4 meters above a soybean crop resulted in temperature reductions of up to 10 degrees Celsius (50F), compared to solar panels mounted half a meter above bare soil.

It’s an interesting time for the solar industry, Zhang notes. As the industry moves to a larger scale, its players, along with regulators and the communities the farms are in, are considering multiple objectives for those arrays: “Not just the energy production,” Zhang says, “but how to be more ecosystem friendly, more environmentally friendly, and more community friendly.”

That approach could change how receptive communities are to having solar farms come into their area. It could also change the solar farms’ design. “Ten years from now,” Zhang says, “solar farms will be quite different than they are today.”



bottom of page