Five Reasons That Make Agrisolar Significant To The World

Highlights :

  • Keep in mind that we believe agricultural demand for electricity could rise muchfaster than expected with increasing incomes, and climate impact like hotter summers. That builds a case for agri solar to power these regions more strongly, to not only meet incremental demand and power the increasing mechanisation of agriculture, but make a wider impact to clean up emissions from energy demand in agriculture.
Five Reasons That Make Agrisolar Significant To The World Source: NREL

Agrivoltaics refers to the simultaneous use of land for agriculture and photovoltaic (PV) power generation.

It is great idea for a country like India, where over 60% of land is employed for agriculture, and the  scarcity of land is a persistent problem thanks to an expanding population and urbanisation. Agrivoltaics offer a promising prospect in India that will fuse together two important sectors of the economy: agriculture and energy. Keep in mind that we believe agricultural demand for electricity could rise muchfaster than expected with increasing incomes, and climate impact like hotter summers. That builds a case for agri solar to power these regions more strongly, to not only meet incremental demand and power the increasing mechanisation of agriculture, but make a wider impact to clean up emissions from energy demand in agriculture.

Thus, agrivoltaics promise to yield socio-economic benefits, impacting the rural and farmer community in myriad ways by generating employment opportunities, attracting investment etc. The importance is even more when we consider the still high proportion of work force employed in agriculture here, and how critical raising incomes for this sector is.

Countries across the world are taking initiatives to encourage agrisolar with Europe in particular.

Even though agrivoltaics enjoys its share of benefits and often sees political support, it has not been immune to protests. In Degrai, Jaisalmer, the idea of solar projects on pasture land has been contested. In fact, the issue of declaring ‘common lands’ or village lands as government property for solar projects is well contested in India. As is the treatment of pasture lands as waste lands.

In 2022, the Chair of the Victorian Farmers Federation Land Management Committee, a lobby group that advocates for the interests of farmers in Australia said, “In general, the VFF is supportive of solar developments, so long as they do not encroach on high-value agricultural land, such as in irrigation districts.”

Even the Netherlands, the world’s third largest agri producer, in its revised climate and renewable energy targets, has considered focusing on non-agricultural land for fresh solar installs and more.

Detractors maintain that agrisolar can challenge food security, arguing that solar panels affect the crop yield. In India, where it is said there is potential for 2.8 TW of agrisolar , major foods such as rice, wheat, oilseeds are said to see crop output reduction with agrisolar. Many countries have limits on yield reduction to balance out the benefits and downsides. In Germany, it is set at 33%. However, India, as an Agrarian economy, with great potential for AgriPV has not set any such limits yet

Nevertheless, Agrisolar has a lot going for it too. Especially when we consider how what was a challenge a few years ago, like say, cost of energy storage is not as big an issue anymore, and could potentially become even cheaper in this decade. We look at 5 key reasons agrisolar has in its favour.

Push to Rural Development

Agrisolar, which brings together solar and agriculture practices, can be a great way to provide employment opportunities, especially to the rural community. These may include special areas of special expertise, such as O&M of solar plants, EPC, establishments etc, for which the rural manpower can be trained. Agrisolar can also ensure productive uses for barren or waste lands, provided the lands are clearly identified.

Villages, that often witness power crisis, stand to benefit immensely from the energy generated from the decentralised solar plants for local needs.

A study on a 50 MW agrisolar plant in Maharashtra reveals that it initially created employment for 1500 people.

That apart, collating solar and agriculture in villages can lead to sustainable development in rural areas by way of  higher yields while also ringing in new business opportunities.

Farm incomes are also likely to surge, as per various studies, thanks to more dependable power, and local skilling on solar and related fields.



Source: Research Gate

Agricultural Innovation & Biodiversity Protection

Not many know that agrisolar has given a push to innovation in agriculture and horticulture and increased biodiversity protection.

Extreme light is not helpful for plants after they touch light saturation point. It increases water consumption and may also hamper their growth. Contrarily, growing some crops under solar panels can prove to be beneficial, protecting them from extreme temperatures and also upping productivity by up to 10%. Solar panels can also be adjusted for maximum amount of daylight.

Solar panels, which provide shade, help with controlling temperature while also decreasing water evaporation by up to 29%. Consequently, it aids with the augmenting soil moisture. German firm, Agri Energie, has commissioned an AgriPV project in the country where hop plant has seen immense growth. This was achieved after the firm installed the PV system on steel masts. This shielded hop plants from sunlight and hail and evaporation was also curbed. Thus, it’s more a question of picking the right crops to grow under panels than a blanket go or no go for all possibilities.

Eases Land Pressure And Energy Access

Studies have shown that individually, when used for solar projects or growing crops, the land efficiency is 100% for solar energy or crops. But when nurtured together, land efficiency reaches a major 186%.


Source: Green Deal Flow


In Maharashtra, thanks to agrisolar, crop yields have increased by 40% for some crops, with extra shading and lesser evaporation.

A study by Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy Systems, on a 50 MW Agrisolar project in Maharashtra indicated that “an agrivoltaic system appears economically feasible with expected levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of INR 2.02 (EUR 0.0243) already including cost on water management, rainwater harvesting, water storage, and irrigation.”It added, that the use of bifacial glass-glass PV modules further increases electrical yield by 6.4% compared to mono facial modules. Regarding land use, the study suggests that the analyzed agrivoltaic system is likely to almost double average land use efficiency measured by the combined output of electricity and agriculture per unit of land (+94%). In India, where energy access is increasingly a function of affordability of grid power that is going up in cost all the time thanks to high share of fossil fuels, agrisolar could help arrest those rise in costs when used with suitable energy storage devices in rural areas, while providing much more dependable power.

Enhances Food Production, Energy Efficiency

Once solar panels are added to greenhouses, the results are noteworthy. Green houses can require a lot of energy, making electricity a key cost component. As India emerges to become a key agri exporter, farmers are taking up more and more exotic species to grow, in many cases made possible by sophisticated greenhouses.

By some estimates, using solar panels in greenhouses becomes more impactful as greenhouse-based farming, through produces ten times more yield, over an open field, requires ten times more power. Against such a backdrop, agrisolar can prove to be a saviour promising savings on electricity bills and providing energy efficiency.

Curbing Agri Emissions 

The toughest, and most promising reason. Agri emissions, by their very nature, have a very high share in global emissions, yet remain the most difficult to mitigate, for many reasons including fears of impacting yield, food security, and more.

Agriculture, forestry, and land-use change contribute to over one-quarter of the global GHG emissions.

The challenge is set to become more pronounced as increasing populations and demand for food see a further upsurge. With over 2 billion people worldwide engaged in agriculture, making change happen is even more challenging.

Well designed and integrated Agri-PV systems have the potential to contribute to lowering of emissions by generating green energy, and possibly even powering carbon capture initiatives in time.

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