ISU Agri PV Research in Iowa

Iowa State University To Study Solar Energy Use For Agricultural Purposes Under DOE Backed Project At Alliant Energy’s 1.35 MW Solar Farm
Pictured here are (l to r) ISU’s Associate Professor of Horticulture Ajay Nair; Professor in Plant Pathology, Entomology and Microbiology Matt O'Neal; and Electric Power Research Center Director Anne Kimber who are conducting research on agrivoltaics. (Photo Credit: Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)
Pictured here are (l to r) ISU’s Associate Professor of Horticulture Ajay Nair; Professor in Plant Pathology, Entomology and Microbiology Matt O'Neal; and Electric Power Research Center Director Anne Kimber who are conducting research on agrivoltaics. (Photo Credit: Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)
  • ISU starts work on its DOE funded agrivoltaic project in collaboration with Alliant Energy
  • The research team plans to raise bees and plant vegetables, fruits and pollinator habitat on site and see what suits best for what crops
  • Focus will also be on determining economic benefits of an agrivoltaic project for the farmers

A team of researchers at the Iowa State University (ISU) plan to raise native flora and fauna along with planting vegetables at a 1.35 MW Alliant Energy PV project in Iowa to explore the feasibility and financial prospects of the concept of agrivoltaics in a project backed by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

To explore what kind of plants can grow within a solar farm and under the shade of panels, the researchers will raise bees and plant vegetables, fruits and pollinator habitat on site. "Growing these types of crops under and around a solar farm on a scalable basis is different than just growing them. We want to demonstrate that's possible," said Associate Professor of Horticulture at ISU and the Lead Principal Investigator, Ajay Nair.

Apart from identifying the crops that can grow in a modified microclimate without compromising on the yield and quality, the multidisciplinary research team will also determine if operating an agrivoltaic farm is a profitable proposition for farmers. Hence, they plan to reach out to the farmers and non-profits.

Alliant Energy plans to design the facility to support the researchers, installing panels of 2 varying heights, some with a fixed tilt and others with the flexibility to adjust the angle.

According to the team, "By comparing plot-by-plot energy production with temperature and moisture data collected from ISU sensors under the panels, researchers can see whether crops create microclimate changes that impact the panels."

Alliant Energy plans to complete construction on the 10-acre solar farm at the ISU in the fall and horticulture research will begin in full in spring 2024.

The ISU project was one of the 6 agrivoltaic projects funded by the DOE grant of $8 million in December 2022 to create replicable models to reduce land use conflicts (see $8 Million US Government Grant For Agrivoltaic Projects).

Earlier, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released 2 technical reports highlighting the potential of agrivoltaics in the US (see NREL Reports Highlight Potential For Agrivoltaics In US).

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