Farmlands Most Productive For Solar Panels, Claims Study

Oregon State University Study Finds Solar PV Panels & Agriculture Complement Each Other; Croplands, Grasslands & Wetlands Best To Promote Agrivoltaics
05:54 AM (Beijing Time) - 14. August 2019
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If less than 1% of agricultural land is covered with solar panels, these would generate enough solar power to satisfy global electric energy demand, say researchers of Oregon State University in their study on agrivoltaics that has been published in Nature journal. (Photo Credit: Oregon State University)

Key Takeaways

  • A study by researchers at OSU build a case in favour of agrivoltaics after studying data from five large grid-tied, ground-mounted solar electric arrays in Oregon
  • The model developed by the team applied the model globally spanning 17 classes of globally accepted land cover, and figured croplands, grasslands and wetlands as having maximum potential to support agrivoltaics
  • Western America, southern Africa and the Middle East were discovered to be the most efficient continental locations for agrivoltaics

Researchers at the College of Agricultural Sciences, Oregon State University (OSU) claim that if less than 1% of agricultural land is covered with solar panels, these would generate enough solar power to satisfy global electric energy demand. Speaking in favour of agrivoltaics (agriculture+photovoltaics), the team says solar panels thrive when they have plenty of insolation, light winds, moderate temperatures and low humidity – and the same conditions work best for agricultural crops.

The OSU team picked up power production data from five large grid-tied, ground-mounted solar electric arrays installed by Tesla on Oregon state’s agricultural lands. They relied on Tesla data collected every 15 minutes at the 35th Street Solar Array installed in 2013 on the west side of OSU’s Corvallis Campus. This data was synchronized with that collected by microclimate research stations installed at the array.

Results derived were used to develop a model for PV efficiency as a function for air temperature, wind speed and relative humidity. Co-author of the study Elnaz Hassanpour Adeh applied the model globally spanning 17 classes of globally accepted land cover, including croplands, mixed forests, urban and savanna out of which croplands, grasslands and wetlands, in that order, were found to be the top three land classes for agrivoltaics. The study places barren terrains on fifth rank.

Most efficient continental locations were found to be western America, southern Africa and the Middle East.

Crops grown under the intermittent shade of PV panels were found not to impact agricultural yield. At the same time, semi-transparent PV panels ‘open additional opportunities for colocation and greenhouse production’, according to the study. It further adds, “The potential for dual-use, agrivoltaic systems may alleviate land competition or other spatial constraints for solar power development, creating a significant opportunity for future energy sustainability.”

The ‘Solar PV Power Potential is Greatest Over Croplands’ research paper is accessible on the website of Nature journal.

Anu Bhambhani

Anu Bhambhani is the Senior News Editor of TaiyangNews

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Anu Bhambhani