Tag Archive for: AgriSolar

The objectives of the thesis were to investigate electrical energy use on dairy farms located in west central Minnesota and to evaluate the effects of shade use by cattle from solar photovoltaic systems. As the push for sustainable food production from consumers continues to grow, food industries and processors are looking for ways they can be more marketable to consumers. Not only do food industries investigate sustainable practices within their own systems, they also push their suppliers to explore ways to lower their farms’ carbon footprints. Measurements of baseline fossil fuel consumption within dairy production systems are scarce. Therefore, there is a need to discern where and how fossil fuel-derived energy is being used within dairy production systems. Baseline energy use data collection is the first step in addressing the demand for a reduced carbon footprint within dairy production systems. Energy use on five Midwest dairy farms was evaluated from July 2018 to December 2019. Through in-depth monitoring of electricity-consuming processes, it was found that electricity use can differ quite drastically in different types of milking systems and farms. Electricity on an annual basis per cow ranged from 400 kWh/cow in a low-input and grazing farm to 1,145 kWh/cow in an automated milking farm. To reduce electrical energy consumption as well as reduce the effects of heat stress in pastured dairy cows, producers may investigate using an agrivoltaic system. Biological effects of internal body temperature, milk production, and respiration rates and behavioral effects of activity, rumination, fly avoidance behaviors, and standing and lying time of the solar shade were evaluated. Treatment groups were shade or no shade of cattle on pasture. The results of this agrivoltaic system suggested that grazing cattle that have access to shade had lower respiration rates and lower body temperatures compared to cattle that do not have access to shade. Electricity used in dairy farms was examined to help producers find areas in their farms that have the potential for reduced energy consumption. Furthermore, the use of an agrivoltaic system on a pasture-based dairy was studied for its shading effects on the health and behavior of dairy cows.

As an answer to the increasing demand for photovoltaics as a key element in the energy transition strategy of many countries—which entails land use issues, as well as concerns regarding landscape transformation, biodiversity, ecosystems and human well-being—new approaches and market segments have emerged that consider integrated perspectives. Among these, agrivoltaics is emerging as very promising for allowing benefits in the food–energy (and water) nexus. Demonstrative projects are developing worldwide, and experience with varied design solutions suitable for the scale up to commercial scale is being gathered based primarily on efficiency considerations; nevertheless, it is unquestionable that with the increase in the size, from the demonstration to the commercial scale, attention has to be paid to ecological impacts associated to specific design choices, and namely to those related to landscape transformation issues. This study reviews and analyzes the technological and spatial design options that have become available to date implementing a rigorous, comprehensive analysis based on the most updated knowledge in the field, and proposes a thorough methodology based on design and performance parameters that enable us to define the main attributes of the system from a trans-disciplinary perspective. The energy and engineering design optimization, the development of new technologies and the correct selection of plant species adapted to the PV system are the areas where the current research is actively focusing in APV systems. Along with the continuous research progress, the success of several international experiences through pilot projects which implement new design solutions and use different PV technologies has triggered APV, and it has been met with great acceptance from the industry and interest from governments. It is in fact a significant potential contribution to meet climate challenges touching on food, energy, agriculture and rural policies. Moreover, it is understood—i.e., by energy developers—as a possible driver for the implementation of large-scale PV installations and building integrated agriculture, which without the APV function, would not be successful in the authorization process due to land use concerns. A sharp increase is expected in terms of number of installations and capacity in the near future. Along this trend, new concerns regarding landscape and urban transformation issues are emerging as the implementation of APV might be mainly focused on the efficiency of the PV system (more profitable than agriculture), with insufficient attention on the correct synergy between energy and food production. The study of ecosystem service trade-offs in the spatial planning and design for energy transition, to identify potential synergies and minimize trade-offs between renewable energy and other ecosystem services, has been already acknowledged as a key issue for avoiding conflicts between global and local perspectives. The development of new innovative systems (PV system technology) and components (photovoltaic devices technology) can enhance the energy performance of selected design options for APV greenhouse typology.

The concept of combining photovoltaics (PV) with agriculture (agrivoltaics or APV) is being explored across the globe and has established field trials in countries including, but not limited to, Germany, Vietnam, Italy, France, Japan and Chile. An agrivoltaic system involves positioning solar panels directly above or near active agricultural land to provide some form of shading to the crops and to generate electricity from the solar array. The usefulness of this concept is seen when considering the abundance of land that becomes available to the PV market if that land can be shared with the agricultural sector. For instance, consider that in 2016 Australia used 372 million hectares of land for agriculture, of which 8.3% was designated cropland. Therefore, even if some proportion of this cropland (say an 8th) are retrofitted with overhanging PV systems, Australia’s effective solar generation area would increase by roughly four million hectares. This would greatly enhance the renewable energy sectors ability to satisfy baseload energy requirements of the national grid. At first glance the concept of shading plants seems counterintuitive to the perception that cropland should be without obstructions. However, agrivoltaics recognises that crops do not require every hour of sunlight to photosynthesise. Consequently, the solar energy resource can effectively be shared with photovoltaic technology to increase the productivity of the land without greatly decreasing the yield of the crop, and in some cases, increasing crop yield. This is achieved by spacing the rows of solar panels in such a way that the shadows caused by the panels still permit crops to photosynthesise sufficiently in addition to reducing heat related stress caused by the environment. As such, this study aims to review existing literature about agrivoltaics and use experimentation to explore if the advantages they provide are great enough to justify their introduction into Australian agriculture. A key parameter for this study is land productivity that is measured using “land equivalent ratio” (LER) which is a combination of crop yield (measured in kilograms) and energy production (measured in watt-hours).

Achieving optimal yield and quality at harvest depends on the grower’s ability to avoid abiotic stresses (water, light, and temperature). This task has usually been satisfied through the implementation of adequate horticultural practices. In the context of clean energy transition and global climate change, growers nowadays have the possibility to grow their crops under solar panels, which modify the micro-environment of the crops. Being able to anticipate the behavior of plants under these new micro-environmental conditions would help growers adapt their horticultural practices. For electricity producers, in the context of dynamic agrivoltaic systems, anticipating the crop status is useful to choose a solar panels steering policy that maximizes electricity production while ensuring favorable environmental conditions for the crop to grow. To help electricity producers and growers estimate a crop status under panels, we developed a decision support system (DSS) called crop_sim. As of now, it can be used to monitor two types of perennial crops: grapevines and apple trees. crop_sim produces three indicators of the crop status: predawn water potential, canopy temperature and carbon production. Besides providing information on the crop status, the DSS incorporates an expert system which indicates the best time and the amount of irrigation to maintain a desired water status under the new micro-environmental conditions. This paper first focuses on the description of crop_sim and the usefulness of the three indicators. Then, a case study is presented. Our results show that, in a mature vineyard, with a typical panel steering policy conservative on crop yield, growers could save 13% of water compared to an open-field reference. Experimental data pertaining to apple trees, grapevines, tomatoes, and maize are being collected. They will be used to adapt the model to tomato and maize, evaluate it and make it robust enough to bring to market. Further improvements of the crop_sim model may be required to finely reproduce observations in the field. A full validation of the model is expected when all data from the experiments will be available. The DSS will evolve depending on the requirements of the agrivoltaics community and may incorporate additional plant indicators and new expert system rules.

The rapid increase of photovoltaic installations highlights the potential of agrivoltaic systems. These dual-land use systems mitigate land use conflicts for places with limited open space and moreover, show the potential as an added value in crop- and livestock cultivation. The many different names and interacting possibilities between agriculture and PV make it difficult and confusing for stakeholders to compare and benchmark existing installations as well as propose and set new (EU) legislation schemes. This work proposes a standardized classification (including names) of agrivoltaic systems, which is usable worldwide. The classification is based on the application, system, the farming type, PV structure and flexibility. These elements makes it possible to describe and categorize each existing agrivoltaic installation properly. This work suggests to mention each sub-category (for example: static stilted orchard agrovoltaic system) in future research papers or documents to order to better compare (rangevoltaic <=> agrovoltaic) and benchmark new installed installations. When comparing agrivoltaics, the use of the proposed seven KPIs will help to make meaningful comparisons and grounded decisions in case of possible new installations.

A system combining soil grown crops with photovoltaic panels (PV) installed several meters above the ground is referred to as agrivoltaic systems. In this work a patented agrivoltaic solar tracking system named Agrovoltaico®, was examined in combination with a maize crop in a simulation study. To this purpose a software platform was developed coupling a radiation and shading model to the generic crop growth simulator GECROS. The simulation was conducted using a 40-year climate dataset from a location in North Italy, rainfed maize and different Agrovoltaico configurations (that differ according to panel density and sun-tracking set up). Control simulations for an irrigated maize crop under full light were added to results. Reduction of global radiation under the Agrovoltaico system was more affected by panel density (29.5% and 13.4% respectively for double density and single density), than by panel management (23.2% and 20.0% for suntrack and static panels, respectively). Radiation reduction, under Agrovoltaico, affected mean soil temperature, evapotranspiration and soil water balance, on average providing more favorable conditions for plant growth than in full light. As a consequence, in rainfed conditions, average grain yield was higher and more stable under agrivoltaic than under full light. The advantage of growing maize in the shade of Agrovoltaico increased proportionally to drought stress, which indicates that agrivoltaic systems could increase crop resilience to climate change. The benefit of producing renewable energy with Agrovoltaico was assessed using the Land Equivalent Ratio, comparing the electric energy produced by Agrovoltaico cultivated with biogas maize to that produced by a combination of conventional ground mounted PV systems and biogas maize in monoculture. Land Equivalent Ratio was always above 1, it increased with panel density and it was higher with sun tracking than with static panels. The best Agrivoltaico scenario produced twice as much energy, per unit area, as the combination of ground mounted PV systems and biogas maize in monoculture. For this Agrivoltaico can be considered a valuable system to produce renewable energy on farm without negatively affecting land productivity.

Researchers present here a novel ecosystems approach—agrivoltaics—to bolster the resilience of renewable energy and food production security to a changing climate by creating a hybrid of colocated agriculture and solar PV infrastructure, where crops are grown in the partial shade of the solar infrastructure. They suggest that this energy- and food-generating ecosystem may become an important—but as yet quantitatively uninvestigated—mechanism for maximizing crop yields, efficiently delivering water to plants and generating renewable energy in dryland environments. We demonstrate proof of concept for agrivoltaics as a food–energy–water system approach in drylands by simultaneously monitoring the physical and biological dimensions of the novel ecosystem. We hypothesized that colocating solar and agricultural could yield several significant benefits to multiple ecosystem services, including (1) water: maximizing the efficiency of water used for plant irrigation by decreasing evaporation from soil and transpiration from crop canopies, and (2) food: preventing depression in photosynthesis due to heat and light stress, thus allowing for greater carbon uptake for growth and reproduction. An additional benefit might be (3) energy: transpirational cooling from the understorey crops lowering temperatures on the underside of the panels, which could improve PV efficiency. We focused on three common agricultural species that represent different adaptive niches for dryland environments: chiltepin pepper (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum), jalapeño (C. annuum var. annuum) and cherry tomato (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme). We created an agrivoltaic system by planting these species under a PV array—3.3m off the ground at the lowest end and at a tilt of 32°—to capture the physical and biological impacts of this approach. Throughout the average three-month summer growing season we monitored incoming light levels, air temperature and relative humidity continuously using sensors mounted 2.5m above the soil surface, and soil surface temperature and moisture at 5-cm depth. Both the traditional planting area (control) and agrivoltaic system received equal irrigation rates, and we tested two irrigation scenarios—daily irrigation and irrigation every 2d. The amount of incoming photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) was consistently greater in the traditional, open-sky planting area (control plot) than under the PV panels. This reduction in the amount of incoming energy under the PV panels yielded cooler daytime air temperatures, averaging 1.2+0.3 °C lower in the agrivoltaics system over the traditional setting. Night-time temperatures were 0.5+0.4 °C warmer in the agrivoltaics system over the traditional setting (Fig. 2b). Photosynthetic rates, and therefore growth and reproduction, are also regulated by atmospheric dryness, as represented by vapour pressure deficit (VPD) where lower VPD indicates more moisture in the air. VPD was consistently lower in the agrivoltaics system than in the traditional growing setting, averaging 0.52+0.15 kPa lower across the growing season. Having documented that an agrivoltaic installation can significantly reduce air temperatures, direct sunlight and atmospheric demand for water relative to nearby traditional agricultural settings, we address several questions regarding impacts of the food–energy–water nexus system.

Despite the mature and promising potential for solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to retrench global reliance on fossil fuels, large-scale PV development is experiencing complex challenges, including land use conflict and — as the scale of solar has increased — social resistance, which has previously been more commonly associated with large-scale wind farms. Growth in large-scale PV development can create land use disputes, especially in instances of competition between land for agriculture versus energy production. This history and growing concern over land use highlights the challenge of meeting the soaring demands for solar power while conserving rural and agricultural lands. It is posited that the impact of solar development on land will be diminished by siting PV in a manner that is compatible with multiple uses, suggesting changes in conventional practices will be necessary. The specific intent of this study was to draw insight about solar development from participant experience, and responses indicate that the most considerable opportunities and barriers center on social acceptance and public perception issues. Perspectives about the opportunities and barriers to agrivoltaic development were captured via interviews with solar industry professionals, and inductive analysis revealed that interviewees were most focused on opportunities and barriers that correspond with Wüstenhagen et al.’s three dimensions of social acceptance: market, community, and socio-political factors. The social acceptance of renewable energy is shaped by a complex interplay among market, community, and socio-political factors. While this framework is constructive for understanding the varying dimensions of social acceptance, Devine-Wright et al. assert that it is weak in terms of the relationships between dimensions, suggesting that further research should apply a holistic approach for discerning the interdependence among factors shaping social acceptance of renewable energy. The purpose of this study is therefore to explore the perceptions of industry professionals in the U.S. and consider the implications of the identified opportunities and barriers from a social science perspective. To address global demands for both food and energy, the relationship between critical land uses must become complementary rather than competitive. Because social acceptance of renewable energy technology is pivotal to energy transitions, this study reflects a proactive attempt to understand agrivoltaics from a solar industry professional’s perspective to better understand the significant opportunities and barriers to development. This research suggests that agrivoltaics are potentially accretive to the long-term growth of the solar industry, possessing the capacity to increase social acceptance of local solar developments. While the agrivoltaic concept is widely supported by the participants in this study, popularity of an emerging technology among industry experts may not indicate local level acceptance of a specific development. As new energy technologies such as agrivoltaics transcend niche applications to become more prevalent, localized resistance is to be anticipated and the dimensions of social acceptance, including the opportunities and barriers associated with each dimension, can help inform decision making to enhance the growth of agrivoltaic development.

Worldwide, water is becoming scarcer and more expensive due to the effects of climate change. Significant adaptation will be necessary to ensure adequate supply and efficient use of a diminishing resource. This reduction in the supply of water will affect agriculture and will require a change in focus from increasing productivity of land to increasing productivity per unit of water consumed.

Community-based Stormwater Strategies and Vegetation Management for Sustainable Solar PV Development