Agrivoltaics: a New Way to Synergize Energy + Food Production
The Sonoran Desert is a perfect place to see agrivoltaics in action. It's a new way of combining renewable energy with agriculture in a hot, arid landscape, positioning elevated solar panels over an understory of plants. At the University of Arizona, scientists are working on agrivoltaics projects just outside of Biosphere 2, the living laboratory where climate change has been the focus of interdisciplinary research in recent years. In the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus, agrivoltaics delivers eco-friendly solutions: 1. The plants, protected by the solar panels from the worst of the midday sun’s rays, become little evaporative coolers on the landscape. They take up carbon for photosynthesis by opening up their pores, or stomata, while letting water escape from their leaves and create a cooler microclimate.
2. The solar panel modules can lose efficiency while operating under the blazing Sonoran sun. The panels perform at a higher level – thanks to this cooler microclimate afforded by the plants. The panels, in turn, protect the plants from sunburn and dehydration. The end results: a better crop yield and more efficient performance of the solar array.