Agrivoltaics: What to Know About Farming With Solar Panels

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Agrivoltaics: What to Know About Farming With Solar Panels

The agriculture industry requires an immense amount of resources, including water and energy. The EPA reports that 24% of total greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry, and other land use, and around 70% of total water consumption is for irrigation purposes

It’s reasonable that agriculture businesses and individual farmers are looking for ways to make their processes more sustainable. 

Here’s what Freedom Solar has to say about agrivoltaics and how renewable energy leads to smarter farming.

What Is Agrivoltaics?

Agrivoltaics refers to the simultaneous production of solar energy and crops and their coexistence in the same area. The root word “agri-” relates to food production and “-voltaic” to electricity production. 

An agrivoltaic system features solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that are installed as an overhanging canopy-like setup over rows of crops. Solar PV panels benefit from the direct sunlight that otherwise would have completely hit the crops. Additionally, solar panels provide shade for crops, which helps in minimizing their water evaporation levels and prevents them from drying out.

An agrivoltaic system facilitates the production of solar energy production, drastically reduces water consumption on farms, and heightens crop health, resulting in increased output — all at the same time. 

Devices Used for Agrivoltaics

A solar-powered irrigation system requires the following basic components:

  • Solar panels: Solar panels absorb solar energy and transform it into electricity.
  • Electric pump: You can use either a surface pump (installed adjacent to the water source with one pipe for water absorption and another for discharge), or a submersible pump (installed in deep wells or boreholes) depending on your water source.
  • Filter: A vital tool used for cleaning and purifying water of sand, small rocks, shells, plant debris, soil, dirt, and more. 
  • Fertigation node: This tool inserts fertilizers into water used on crops during the irrigation process. 
  • Reservoir: Reservoirs are optional components but often used in drip irrigation systems where water is pumped all day then stored for later use.
  • Water supply pipes: You can either use main, secondary, or drip pipes for transferring your water supply from source to crop.

[Related: Guide to Solar Panels]

Advantages of Agrivoltaic Farming

Agrivoltaic farms promise to improve food production and reduce water use while also creating energy and additional revenue. Here’s a deeper look at their advantages. 

Crop Protection 

Solar panels used for agrivoltaic systems shield crops from a variety of adverse weather conditions. These include hail, harsh wind, heavy rain, and even frost. 

Solar PV panels create a sort of microclimate underneath them that facilitates ideal conditions for healthy growing. This equates to higher income flow since more crops are maintained to the point of selling. 

Revenue Makeup

Farmers occasionally experience low-output seasons and suffer low annual revenue as a result. Fortunately, solar panels make up for a portion of that lost revenue thanks to their energy production. 

Solar panels in an agrivoltaic system receive an abundance of direct sunlight (typically with no light obstruction) since crop rows are planted in ideal growing areas. Solar panels on the same land as crops allow growers to harvest the sun twice. And since solar panel farms typically generate more energy than the farm requires, they send the excess energy back to the grid for net metering credits

Look into your area’s local, state, and federal incentives to determine the return value on solar energy.  

Reduced Water Consumption

As stated earlier, irrigation requires an immense amount of water. Agrivoltaic systems help in significantly reducing those amounts. 

Plants experience less evaporation because solar panels block the overhead sun. As a result, they retain more moisture and require less water. 

Additionally, strategically routed watering such as the drip method saves on overall water consumption as well. Reduction in water use is dependent on the type of water sources nearby and the piping used to distribute it. 

[Related: Energy Independence Through Solar]

Contact Freedom Solar to Begin Your Journey Into Agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaic farms have the unique ability to merge water, energy, and agriculture and reap success in each separate component. And many are realizing that farming smarter reaches far beyond the rows of crops. 

If you’d like to learn more about Freedom Solar, agrivoltaic systems, or how to incorporate renewable energy into your home or business with solar panels, call us at +1 (877) 795-0577 or complete our inquiry form to begin your free consultation.

Featured image via Unsplash

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