Solar Sharing for Both Food and Clean Energy Production: Performance of Agrivoltaic Systems for Corn, A Typical Shade-Intolerant Crop

The purpose of this research was to examine the performance of agrivoltaic systems, which produce crops and electricity simultaneously, by installing stilt-mounted photovoltaic (PV) panels on farmland. As PV power stations enjoy remarkable growth, land occupation with the purpose of establishing solar farms will intensify the competition for land resources between food and clean energy production.
Authors: Takashi Sekiyama and Akira Nagashima
 
Journal Title: Environments
 
ISSN: 2076-3298 (Print)
 
Publisher: MDPI AG
 
Abstract
 
The purpose of this research was to examine the performance of agrivoltaic systems, which produce crops and electricity simultaneously, by installing stilt-mounted photovoltaic (PV) panels on farmland. As PV power stations enjoy remarkable growth, land occupation with the purpose of establishing solar farms will intensify the competition for land resources between food and clean energy production. The results of this research showed, however, that the stilt-mounted agrivoltaic system can mitigate the trade-off between crop production and clean energy generation even when applied to corn, a typical shade-intolerant crop. The research was conducted at a 100-m2 experimental farm with three sub-configurations: no modules (control), low module density, and high module density. In each configuration, 9 stalks/m2 were planted 0.5 m apart. The biomass of corn stover grown in the low-density configuration was larger than that of the control configuration by 4.9%. Also, the corn yield per square meter of the low-density configuration was larger than that of the control by 5.6%. The results of this research should encourage more conventional farmers, clean energy producers, and policy makers to consider adopting stilt-mounted PV systems, particularly in areas where land resources are relatively scarce. 
 
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
 

Illustration Photo: NREL researcher Jordan Macknick and UMass professor Stephen Herbert survey the test plot at the UMass Crop Animal Research and Education Center in South Deerfield MA. They are working with teams from UMASS Clean Energy Extension and Hyperion on a photovoltaic dual-use research project, simultaneously growing crops under PV Arrays while producing electricity. (credits: National Renewable Energy Lab / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

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