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Grassland Carbon-Water Cycling is Minimally Impacted by a Photovoltaic Array

In this study, researchers used field measurements and a plant hydraulic model to quantify carbon-water cycling in a semi-arid C3 perennial grassland growing beneath a single-axis tracking solar array in Colorado, USA. Although the agrivoltaic array reduced light availability by 38%, net photosynthesis and aboveground net primary productivity were reduced by only 6–7% while evapotranspiration decreased by 1.3%. The minimal changes in carbon-water cycling occurred largely because plant photosynthetic traits underneath the panels changed to take advantage of the dynamic shading environment. The results indicate that agrivoltaic systems can serve as a scalable way to expand solar energy production while maintaining ecosystem function in managed grasslands, especially in climates where water is more limiting than light.