Tag Archive for: solar farming

Results of Agrisolar Soybean Pilot Project Revealed by PV Developer 

“French solar developer TSE, in association with Alliance BFC, has unveiled the initial results of a pilot study in France on how solar panels can affect soybean growth. The teams observed solid vegetative growth of the soybeans, with normal flowering, fertilization, and physiological maturation. The six varieties tested presented a diversity of yields: up to 25% difference in yield under the canopy and 19% on the control field.” – PV Magazine 

Oregon Research Studies Use of Vertical PV for Crop Production 

 “There are many different ways to install agrivoltaic arrays. One common method is to raise the array to leave space for farming equipment or livestock to move freely below. Another trending design is to orient the PV arrays vertically, leaving wide open spaces in between the array rows. 

The paper found that an area about the size of Maryland would be needed if agrivoltaics were to meet 20% of U.S. electricity generation. That’s about 13,000 square miles, or 1% of current U.S. farmland. At a global scale, it is estimated that 1% of all farmlands could produce the world’s energy needs if converted to solar PV.” – PV Magazine 

Research Shows Translucent Solar Panels Optimize Crop and Solar Harvest 

“Associate professor Majdi Abou Najm from the Univ. of California, Davis, tested organic solar panels made from translucent material that absorb the blue light to generate electricity, but allow the red light with its longer wavelengths to pass through to the crops below. 

At the UC Davis Agricultural Experiment Station, Abou Najm and his team planted three different plots of processing tomatoes, a common central valley California crop, under a canopy of selective red light, another of selective blue, and a third uncovered plot. 

GNN has reported before on the recent phenomenon of ‘agrivoltaics,’ a practice of growing shade tolerant crops under solar panel arrays. The shade protects the crops from heat stress, while the plants’ transpiration humidifies the air beneath the panels, cooling them down and increasing their electricity output.” – Good News Network 

By Asaf Maman and Avi Elkayam, Trigo Solar 

Declining precipitation levels and the associated reduction in arable land can negatively impact rural communities and pose a threat to food security. While utility-scale solar projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they can also encroach on arable lands and reduce the yield of rainfed crops. Wheat, barley, soy, corn, and other grains are cultivated in rainfed fields that are vital to food security. As precipitation levels decline and desertification spreads, arable land and farms that produce these crops are in peril.   

As solar energy is employed in the conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy, hundreds of thousands of square miles of land will include solar development. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there will be roughly 22,000 square miles of solar in the U.S. by 2035i. It is important to understand that the actual land for solar development must be adjacent to grid or to power demand centers. The growing competition between farming, suburban development, and solar development highlights the potential for agrivoltaics.  

Agri-PV is a solution to this issue. It can significantly improve the cultivation of staple foods that substantially affect global food security by cracking the code and untying the water-land knot. By increasing the amount of water available for rainfed crops, we can increase the amount of arable land and avail a portion of it for sustainable solar development. 

In a series of field-controlled winter wheat experiments, Trigo has discovered an almost linear correlation between the amount of water supplied to cultivated area and the quantity of stem biomass and nutritional value. Based on these findings, Trigo designed an east-west solar array formation and solar table structure to both collect and regulate rainwater for redistribution into a cultivated row below. By increasing the rain capture area from both structures, enclosing, and effectively directing the rain, we managed to control the amount of water and increase it, countering the effects of declining precipitation over years.  

North-south solar array over winter wheat. Photo: Trigo Solar 

Design schematic. Source: Trigo Solar 

This design is focused on economic and efficient deployment of solar arrays that improve rain collection and redistribute water to boost crops growth, counter drought effects, and revive agricultural operations.  

Rainwater catchment design schedmatic. Source: Trigo Solar 

Benefits to this design include:  

  1. Maintaining the same yields from smaller cultivated surface area requires more limited farming operations and lower expenses, which can increase farm profitability. 
  1. Capturing more water and channeling it smartly reduces the risk of drought and the associated annual volatility and provides the farm with a drought shield. 
  1. Increased ground wetness, root growth, and wind shield from the solar rows reduces the erosion and carry away of the upper soil layer, which create irreversible damage to farms. 
  1. Preserved land under the Trigo structure can be used for future land reserve and land rotation. 
  1. The steady income from solar power generation can support farm economics and mitigate farming financial risks. 
  1. The availability of cheap, local, green power can further support many of the farm operations expected to undergo electrification in the coming decade. 
  1. The existence of a water-distribution and cheap-power system changes the economics of farming, potentially allowing the cultivation of second seasonal crop during the dry season.  

These benefits have the potential to create more win-win opportunities for effective cooperation between the agricultural and sustainable energy sectors. 

Trigo will continue its experiments to validate the benefits for major U.S. staple crops at U.S. farms to share the knowledge and promote sustainable mass Agri-PV development.  

Win for America’s Farmers: Harvesting Solar Energy 

“America’s solar industry has boomed in recent years, and is slated for a big boost from the Democrats’ recently passed climate bill. Yet solar still only accounts for about 3 percent of electricity flowing into America’s grid—less than one-seventh the share from coal. If we want to phase out fossil fuels and accommodate an electric vehicle revolution, the sun’s contribution has to rise dramatically—and fast. But where to put all the panles?

The best places for solar installations, according to a 2019 study from the University of Utah and Oregon State, tend to be the areas where we already grow our food. That’s because, just like sun-loving tomato plants that fare poorly when the mercury creeps north of 85 °F, photovoltaic (PV) panels lose their efficiency at higher temperatures. But that doesn’t mean we have to starve ourselves to keep lights on and cars humming. 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.” – Mother Jones  

5 Signs the US Agrisolar Revolution has Begun  

“An upswell of opposition to large-scale solar power plants on farms took shape in the U.S. last spring, partly fueled by conspiracy theories about climate change. Nevertheless, farmland is attractive to solar developers. Now they have a new support system on their side, in the form of agrivoltaics.” – Triplepundit.com  

Solar Energy Corporation of India Issues Tender to Install Agrisolar Pumps 

“New Delhi: The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) on Monday issued a tender for setting up agricultural solar pumps in selected states pan-India under component-B of the PM-KUSUM scheme of the renewable energy ministry.  

‘Individual farmers will be supported to install standalone solar agriculture pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP for replacement of existing diesel agriculture pumps and irrigation systems in off-grid areas, where grid supply is not available. Installation of new pumps will be permitted under this scheme except in dark zone areas,’ said the SECI tender document.” – Energyworld.com 

UC Davis Study Shows Harvesting Various Light Spectra Benefits Agrisolar  

“Scientists from the University of California, Davis, are investigating how to better harvest the sun — and its optimal light spectrum — to make agrivoltaic systems more efficient in arid agricultural regions like California. 

Their study, published in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, found that the red part of the light spectrum is more efficient for growing plants, while the blue part of the spectrum is better used for solar production.” UCDavis.com 

Massachusetts Sees Increase in Agrisolar Incentives 

“A Massachusetts incentive program for projects that blend solar energy and agricultural production shows signs of finally gaining momentum after a slow rollout that has at times frustrated solar developers and farmers alike. 

In 2018, Massachusetts became the first state to offer financial incentives for “dual-use” or “agrivoltaic” solar projects built above active agricultural land. Since the launch, however, just three projects have gotten up and running. Another eight have qualified for the incentive but not yet been built.” – Energynews.com  

In this article, researchers in Korea analyze the profitability of agrivoltaics and its implications for rural sustainability. The profitability of agrivoltaics is verified in all studied regions, and the order of profitability and productivity by region are opposite to each other. Researchers suggest that regions with lower productivity may have a higher preference for installing agrivoltaics, implying the installation of agrivoltaics provides a new incentive to continue farming even in regions with low agricultural productivity.

DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office Announces $8 Million in Projects for Agrivoltaics Research 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office announced $8 million in new projects that will research agrivoltaics—agricultural production, such as crop production, livestock grazing, and pollinator habitat underneath solar panels and/or in between rows of solar panels. 

The Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale (FARMS) funding program will advance agrivoltaics practices and show how it can provide new economic opportunities to farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry. They explore different ways to implement agrivoltaics that will address concerns from the solar industry and farmers. Currently, less than 2% of solar systems utilize agrivoltaic practices.” – Energy.gov  

AgriSolar Clearinghouse partner Greg-Barren Gafford from The University of Arizona is among the award recipients. Learn more about award recipients, which also include Rutgers and Ohio State University, here.  

USDA Announces Climate Smart Commodity Awards 

USDA Announced 71 climate-smart commodity awards in round 2 of the initiative. Among the awardees is The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UT-RGV), with the project “Validating Agrivoltaic Technology with Underserved Agricultural Producers.”  

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse will serve as a technical assistance provider for this project.  This work will include the production of outreach materials, education, and workshops to promote benefits to potential agrivoltaic adopters in the Rio Grande Valley.

JUA Technologies Develops Solar-Powered Dehydrator 

“JUA Technologies, an agriculture technology start-up that manufactures solar-powered crop dehydrators, has received a two-year, $600,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop its technology.” – PV Magazine 

Italian Research Shows Benefits of Growing Soybeans Using Agrivoltaics

“Scientists from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Italy have investigated different shade depth treatments on soybeans grown under an elevated agrivoltaic system in Monticelli d’Ongina, Italy. ‘Our work confirmed that soybean is shade tolerant and can be grown in combination with solar power generation. Considering not only soy but more crops and extensive crops in a large scale agrivoltaics is useful for increasing the sustainability of the agrivoltaic system itself.’ researcher Eleonora Potenza told PV magazine. – PV Magazine

Meta Obtains 720MW of Solar from Silicon Ranch

“Facebook owner Meta Platforms will power additional data center operations around the Southeast with 720 MW of new solar developments in Georgia and Tennessee with Silicon Ranch. Silicon Ranch is partnering with the Walton Electric Membership Corporation and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to supply power from seven new solar facilities to power Meta’s data centers in the two Southeast states, respectively.” – PV Magazine

Researchers in this study monitored soil and air temperature, humidity, wind speed, and incident radiations at a full sun site, as well as at two agrivoltaic systems with different densities of photovoltaic panels. They recorded the findings during three seasons (winter, spring, and summer) with both short cycle crops (lettuce and cucumber) and a long cycle crop (durum wheat). The researchers concluded that little adaptations in cropping practices should be required to switch from an open cropping to an agrivoltaic cropping system and attention should mostly be focused on mitigating light reduction and on selection of plants with a maximal radiation use efficiency in these conditions of fluctuating shade.

This PhD dissertation addresses four primary questions: 1.) To what extent is plant-available radiation reduced by solar panels of a photovoltaic system? 2.) How does this effect parameters of aerial and soil climate? 3.) How do the cultivated crops respond to the altered cropping conditions with regard to plant growth and development? 4.) What consequences does this have regarding the yields and the chemical composition of the investigated crop-species? A field experiment in which grass clover, potatoes, celery, and winter wheat were planted under a photovoltaic facility in Southwest Germany was conducted to answer these questions.

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse Podcast officially kicks off with a conversation between Meg Caley, Executive Director and co-founder of the Colorado nonprofit Sprout City Farms and NCAT Energy Director Stacie Peterson. They discuss the many additive benefits of agrisolar, the challenges of farming in an obstacle course, and the importance of community. AgriSolar podcast episodes will be available on Voices from the Field, NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture podcast series.

Sprout City Farms began in 2010 with a vision of increasing food access and community resiliency through farming underutilized urban land. Among its partnerships, Sprout City Farms works with Jack’s Solar Garden in Longmont, Colorado, growing crops in the spaces between solar panels at the site, which is the largest agrivoltaic research facility of its kind in the United States.

You can read more about Sprout City Farms, Jack’s Solar Garden, and the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center at these websites: 

Sprout City Farms 

Jack’s Solar Garden 

Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center 

The researchers in this study aimed to simulate crop yields for paddy rice, barley, and soybeans grown under photovoltaic panels with an eye on reaching suitable agricultural productivity for the energy and food nexus coexistence. They also applied a geospatial crop simulation modeling system to stimulate the regional variations in crop yield according to solar radiation reduction scenarios.

This study evaluates green bean cultivation inside greenhouses with photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof. Researchers found that the beans adapted to the change in shading by relocating more resources to the stems and leaves. As a result, average yield decreased compared to that of a conventional greenhouse. However, an economic trade-off between energy and crop yield can be achieved with a panel coverage of 10%. The research also provides an experimental framework that could be replicated and used as a decision support tool to identify other crops suitable for solar greenhouse cultivation.