Agrivoltaics or AgroPhotovoltaics, an Introduction to a solution on Land-Use Footprint

agrivoltaics

By: Santhan Reddy Penaka,
Graduate Student Researcher at Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) – Dalarna University
Guest Author

Problem Statement:

In order to meet significantly increasing global energy demand and control climate change, the advancement and adoption of renewable energy is increasing at a rapid pace. It’s obvious that every emerging technology has its own challenges. One of the main challenges is being raised in renewable energy adaptation is the more land usage for solar PV plants which is causing high capital investment[1]. On the other side, food security has been the biggest challenge in the 21st century due to climate change impacts on crop yield degradation. Although it is known that climate change will create major impacts globally in future, but farmers have already started facing those impacts such as rising temperatures, floods, abnormal weather behavior, droughts, low income etc. This will eventually create the big challenge of imbalance of rural and urban regions in developing countries[2]. For instance, there are a huge number of people migrating from rural to urban areas in India and also suicide rate among farmers is increasing in India because of climate change impacts on their agricultural income[3].

Image from MetroSolar.eu

Concept of AgroPhotovoltaics (APV):

An innovative idea of using the same land for harvesting solar energy and agriculture which means installing solar system “above the crops at certain height” and “gap between the solar modules for photosynthesis”. This concept will increase the land productivity, solar energy yield due to ventilation for solar panels, and also the crop yields increases by optimizing the solar installation gap between modules for appropriate type of crop. It’s been three decades since this technology was introduced and now there is a lot of research and pilot projects being implemented all over the world. This is already emerging in countries like Italy, Japan, China, Germany etc. Few researches proved that AgroPhotovoltaics projects will increase the land productivity almost double compared with conventional ground mounted PV projects depending on different type of crop. There will even be more increase in solar PV and crop yields by implementing the solar tracking system which helps to harvest more radiation for solar modules and sufficient sunlight for crops. This technology will also help farmers by increasing agricultural income by availing the electricity for irrigation, rural electrification and help overcoming the challenge of imbalance between urban and rural area development[1]. Another research estimated that if solar PV projects are installed on 1% of agricultural lands in the world it will be sufficient to supply global electricity demand[4]. It’s also important to mention the aspects of “Local Energy Security” in remote areas at house / village / district level depends on the scale of the implementation.

Conclusion:

Hence there is huge scope for technical and optimization developments in this technology, as it’s still in its early stages. There are also opportunities for implementation of AgroPhotovoltaics projects in various regions of the world. However there will be many technical, environmental and social challenges that would be addressed in future as this technology has the ability to play a key role in the future energy generation and agricultural fields.

References:

[1] A. Weselek, A. Ehmann, S. Zikeli, I. Lewandowski, S. Schindele, and P. Högy, ‘Agrophotovoltaic systems: applications, challenges, and opportunities. A review’, Agron. Sustain. Dev., vol. 39, no. 4, p. 35, Jun. 2019
[2] B. M. Campbell et al., ‘Reducing risks to food security from climate change’, Glob. Food Secur., vol. 11, pp. 34–43, Dec. 2016.
[3] G. Singh, ‘Climate Change and Food Security in India: Challenges and Opportunities’, Irrig. Drain., vol. 65, no. S1, pp. 5–10, 2016.
[4] E. H. Adeh, S. P. Good, M. Calaf, and C. W. Higgins, ‘Solar PV Power Potential is Greatest Over Croplands’, Sci. Rep., vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1–6, Aug. 2019.

Guest Author