Agrivoltaics: The New Frontier

 By Eryka Thorley, Master in Environmental Management pupil and SEI Fellow

“It’s now or never” is the succintest method to abbreviate the newest warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  If the world goes to keep away from the worst of the local weather disaster, local weather mitigation must occur now and with larger impression.  Specifically the world wants to cut back international carbon emissions by 2025 if there’s any likelihood of preserving a steady local weather. Solar photovoltaics is only one of any variety of actions we are going to undertake to restrict these emissions. Another choice is the rising expertise of agrivoltaics, a melding of extra sustainable agriculture, water conservation, and renewable energy era.

Solar power is essentially the most plentiful energy supply on earth.  A problem with solar nonetheless, is that panels take up area and area is restricted in lots of elements of the world. The area that’s accessible is met with the dilemma of its utility for assembly the wants of a rising inhabitants; is that this parcel used to develop meals for a rising inhabitants or their rising energy calls for? This is among the the reason why rooftop solar is so helpful however an economic system of scale is necessary if we’re to create sufficient energy to wean the world off of fossil fuels. This is the place agrivoltaics are a sport changer, permitting for the twin goal of land for agriculture and solar era and in the end making a extra productive use of the panorama with a food-water-energy collaboration.

The food-water-energy nexus, as that is generally known as, refers to how these three obligatory assets are inextricably linked and results on one useful resource are inherently felt at totally different scales by the opposite two assets. One instance of many is that meals manufacturing and fossil gas energy manufacturing are each water intensive.[1] Drought exacerbates the pressure on water and in flip the opposite two assets, whereas a rising inhabitants will increase the demand for all three. Agrivoltaics functionally works towards eleveating strains on the food-water-energy nexus.

Agrivoltaics had been first explored in 1981 by Dr. Armin Zastrow and Professor Adolf Goetzberger, the founding father of Faunhofer Institute for Solar Energy (ISE) in Germany, a corporation that continues to pioneer agrivoltaics right now.  Goetzberger’s preliminary analysis within the 80’s centered on the twin land-use of solar PV programs in relationship with potato farming and what they discovered was promising.  Yet it wasn’t till legislative reform and the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) in Germany in 2010 when agrivoltaics analysis grew to become a bigger precedence and at a a lot bigger scale. Despite its now international unfold, the biggest hurdle to agrivoltaic improvement is native laws all over the world (Fraunhofer ISE, 2020).

Potential purposes for photovoltaics. Source Fraunhofer ISE










Agrivoltaic system. Source: Fraunhofer ISE


There are many advantages when pairing solar photovoltaic (PV) programs with agriculture (Fraunhofer ISE, 2020):

  • Irrigation discount wants can drop by as much as 20%
  • Rainwater assortment potential for irrigation
  • Reducing wind erosion
  • Use of PV mounting construction for crop safety and elevated resiliency
  • Using monitoring programs to maximise gentle for crops
  • Higher PV effectivity by convective cooling
  • Support pollinator habitat

Additional acknowledged advantages embody the monetary profit of creating a second income supply for farmers, an business that faces rising vulnerabilities as local weather change impacts broaden. In research, some crops are capable of produce bigger yields with a paired solar array whereas others are barely decrease (nearer to 80% in comparison with the management group) however when the solar achieve is explored in addition to the opposite many advantages, the pair share a robust co-benefit and total manufacturing (Hickey, 2019; Barron-Gafford, 2019). Thus, if a farmer is ready to produce above 80% crop yield whereas a solar array generates 100% of its anticipated yield, the manufacturing of their land turns into upwards of 180%. The added worth of a solar array is a big contribution to their income in addition to the general productiveness of their land. With local weather patterns altering, PV arrays additionally enable for defense of crops relying on their placement and the related panorama and projected environmental hazards. Not to say the added resilience of a diversified earnings for an agricultural producer.

In 2022, the present international put in power of agrivoltaics is 14 GW.  In Germany alone there’s the potential for 1.7 TW of agrivoltaic power (Fraunhofer ISE, 2022).  The pairing of photovoltaics and agriculture is one thing that have to be additional explored, together with extra supportive laws and laws permitting for this twin use of land.  This regenerative  pairing straight helps the food-water-energy nexus and is a nimble resolution to the local weather disaster.

What different nimble hybrid options can we must be contemplating for solar photovoltaics?

To study extra about agrivoltaics:

Please attain out to [email protected] with questions or feedback about this content material.


[1] It is a lesser recognized or mentioned incontrovertible fact that water is an integral a part of fossil gas power crops, since we burn energy dense fossil fuels to warmth water into steam which then drives turbine-generators.

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