Research Suggests Agrivoltaics Could Help California’s Tomato Industry
“Emerging research suggests growing tomato plants below and between solar panels could help the country’s billion-dollar-plus tomato industry, especially in places where it faces increasing stress from heat and drought. Shade provided by solar panels can help conserve water, create humidity, and lower temperatures that can become too much even for heat-loving tomatoes.” – Energy News Network
Research Shows That Crops and Solar Panels Are Highly Compatible
“By elevating solar panels far enough above the ground so people, plants, and animals can operate underneath, we can ‘essentially harvest the sun twice,’ says University of Arizona researcher Greg Barron-Gafford. Enough sunlight to grow crops gets past the panels, which also act as a shield against extreme heat, drought, and storms.
Barron-Gafford and his team were able to triple the yield of chiltepin peppers, wild chiles common to the area, by growing them under PV panels on test plots vs. unshaded control plots; cherry tomato output doubled. What’s more, the soil on the PV plots retained 5 to 15 percent more moisture between waterings. ‘The plants aren’t just freeloading under the solar,’ adds Barron-Gafford; they actually help the panels become more efficient. ‘Every time plants open their pores to let carbon dioxide in, water escapes,’ he explains. This lowers the temperature beneath the panels—the same way restaurant misters make outdoor dining bearable in scorching heat. The cooling effect, the researchers calculated, resulted in a 3 percent bump in electricity production during the growing season.” – Mother Jones
Symbizon Project Aims to Find New Ways to Combine Agriculture and Solar
“During a four-year pilot project, Dutch independent research organization TNO, in collaboration with Vattenfall and Aeres University of Applied Sciences (UAS), is developing a sun tracking algorithm that monitors various factors, such as crop yield, energy yield and the effects of herb strips, weather forecast, energy price and soil condition.” – Vattenfall