Crops under solar panels can be a win-win

"Agrivoltaics" studies like the one pictured here in Massachusetts are finding many crops that pair well with solar panels.

Enlarge / “Agrivoltaics”
studies like the one pictured here in Massachusetts are finding
many crops that pair well with solar panels. (credit:
NREL / Flickr
)

Solar panels might seem like they’re in direct competition
with plants. One is catching sunlight to do photosynthesis, the
other wants to take it to push electrons. Surely Highlander rules
apply, and there can be only one on a plot of land, right?

In reality, it’s not a zero-sum game. Some plants will burn in
direct sun, after all, and so there are plenty of food crops that
would be happy to share their space with panels. And as a new study
led by the University of Arizona’s Greg
Barron-Gafford
shows, the combination isn’t even necessarily
a compromise—there are some synergies that can bring significant
benefits to a solar-agriculture.

Everybody wins

Prof. Barron-Gafford et al. focused on dry areas like the
American Southwest, where water for crops is limiting and things
are projected to get drier. The shade provided by solar panels
could lower soil surface temperatures and evaporation, the
researchers thought, and vegetation could similarly keep the panels
themselves a little cooler than a bare ground installation. Since
solar panel efficiency drops at high temperature, that could mean
more electricity generated.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Crops under solar panels can be a win-win