Emerging soon is a hybrid of colocated agriculture and solar photovoltaic (PV) infrastructure. It takes an integrative approach—monitoring microclimatic conditions, PV panel temperature, soil moisture and irrigation water use, plant ecophysiological function and plant biomass production within this ‘agrivoltaics’ ecosystem and in traditional PV installations and agricultural settings to quantify trade-offs. Will this work for areas of a hemp field, shading by the PV panels provides multiple additive and synergistic benefits, including reduced plant drought stress, yield increases and reduced PV panel heat stress? Research is now underway.
Also of interest is water --with this system irrigation events can support crop growth for days, not just hours, as in current agriculture practices. This finding suggests reduction of water use while still maintaining high yield production. Soil moisture remained approximately 15% higher in the agrivoltaics system than the control plot when irrigating every other day.
In addition to the benefits to the plants, the researchers also found that the agrivoltaics system increased the efficiency of energy production. Solar panels are inherently sensitive to temperature—as they warm, their efficiency drops. By cultivating crops underneath the PV panels, researchers were able to reduce the temperature of the panels.