So far, acreage was designated for either photovoltaics or photosynthesis, i.e. either to generate electricity or grow crops. Agrophotovoltaics (APV) denotes approaches to use agricultural areas simultaneously to produce food and to generate PV electricity. In this way, APV increases land-use efficiency and enables PV capacity to be expanded while still retaining fertile areas for agriculture. Dual-use of land is resourcefully efficient, reduces competition for land and additionally opens up a new source of income for farmers of any kind. Several crops can benefit from these systems, including fruit production.
APV technology has developed very dynamically in recent years and can be found in almost all regions of the world. The installed APV power increased exponentially from approximately 5 MW in 2012 to approximately 2.9 GW in 2018.
2018 was one of the toughest years for the farmers as it was one of the hottest summers. This high scorching heat and temperature had a very negative effect on the yield for many farmers. However, in an experimental process, the shading which was provided by the solar panels actually increased the production of crop and the solar energy boosted electricity output as well. In some cases, the land-use efficiency rose to an exponential level with the agrophotovoltaic system.
In one of its kind, Cochin International Airport in India is the world’s first solar-powered airport and received The United Nation’s 2018 Champions of the Earth Award for Entrepreneurial Vision. Solar plants are in eight locations, including the biggest plant which is spread over an area of 45 acres. The important thing is that as an additional sustainability measure, the grounds also house a farm underneath the panels. In 2018, they produced approximately 80 tones of organic vegetables, which are sold to nearby markets and airport staff.
Generating electricity on a farm has other economic benefits as well. Equipment manufacturers like Fendt and John Deere have already started planning to manufacture electric tractors and other farming equipment. In blend with local battery storage, a ranch can move towards becoming vitality free.
What about expenses? A study suggests that an agrophotovoltaic system almost equivalent to a typical rooftop solar system. More importantly, the farmers do not need to choose between growing food and erecting solar arrays. They can do both and advantage themselves as well as society too. More sustainable power source is something to be feel great about. Hopefully, this win-win situation can attract farmers towards the enormous solar benefits by which they can produce more with additional economic benefits and make their future a better one.