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What’s agrivoltaic technology? Solar farming combo has many benefits — and critics

By agedleadstore
What’s agrivoltaic technology? Solar farming combo has many benefits — and critics Feature Image
3 minute read

In efforts to maximize renewable energy resources and crop health, some farmers are turning to “agrivoltaics” to provide power without interfering with the farm’s workflow.

Agrivoltaics is a combination of the words “agriculture” and “voltaic cells,” which turn solar power into electrical power.

With agrivoltaics or dual-use solar, solar panel height is adjusted in whatever ways necessary to accommodate farming equipment, workers, crops, and animals.

The panel heights and angles are adjusted accordingly to allow for proper light flow and workflow.

Due to the amount of solar produced, this type of setup isn’t just to benefit the farmer. It’s meant to provide power for general use from the electricity that is uploaded to the grid.

As a result, the farmer receives payments or reduced lease payments, according to The New York Times.

The NYT spoke with Paul Knowlton, a farmer in Grafton, Mass., who chose to partner with BlueWave Solar for this particular project.

BlueWave Solar designs these types of projects, then sells them to companies that build and oversee them.

For solar companies and renewable energy experts, the hope is that these types of projects will encourage more farmers to welcome solar projects onto their land.

Studies have shown that solar installations may potentially boost crop growth by protecting them from high temperatures and conserving water.

The technology has been used with blueberry crops, vineyards, and shrimp farms, but in many areas, it’s a tough sell.

Farmers across the world cite issues with the poles used to hold up the structures getting in the way, neighbors complaining about aesthetics or obstructed views, and the fear of losing farmland to solar projects.

Cost is also a factor, as the higher up the panels need to be built, the more costly the project becomes.

Numerous studies are in progress to test whether the panels affect the taste of certain crops.

A South Korean research team, for example, has tested agrivoltaics with broccoli and cabbage cultivation since the crop requirements may suit these systems.

So far, the taste and quality appear to be unaffected.

Despite general opposition from those who don’t want to look at the solar panels, experts say the other challenges lie in incentives and overall functionality.

Since this technology is still evolving regularly, it currently may not always meet the needs of certain farmers due to the panels’ ability to provide adequate lighting.

On the other hand, experts say some states have more solar installation incentives than others, which gives those areas an advantage.

Until these types of projects become more common, experts say solar companies and advocates should work to reach out to those areas with incentives to educate consumers and encourage solar, and to work toward offering adequate resources to those that don’t.

Photo by Tom Fisk

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