• Wed. Sep 22nd, 2021

The impact of solar energy on agricultural activities


Dec 8, 2020

The solar energy industry is growing at a pronounced rate. Energy developers have discovered that this is the most suitable alternative they can start working on in the transition to clean energy. Moreover, the PV solar panels’ cost that generates this energy is plummeting, accelerating the uptake and installation of these resources in homes and businesses. Experts have discovered that farming can proceed below the solar panels. The installation program raises the panels to a higher-level allowing farmer to graze their animals and grow crops in the land below the panels. Moreover, farmers can receive income from the activities that they conduct below the panels. 

Researchers began exploring the possibility of integrating agricultural activities with solar energy operations over ten years ago. The University of Massachusetts Crop Research and Education Center ventured this possibility to create more space for other activities on the lands in which the solar energy resources would be installed. The spaces left between the raised solar structures allow the crops to receive light energy for their physiological processes. The agricultural industry and the solar energy industry both benefit from the integration. 

Scientists who conducted this experiment discovered that the foraging plants like grasses yielded over 80 percent compared to those enjoying direct sunlight. Other crops tested in this research include tomatoes, beans, and peppers. The size of the gaps between the solar panels erected determined the crop yield. The more this distance was, the higher the yields recorded by the researchers. The challenge that the researchers noted was that they could not harvest the crops grown beneath the solar panels with large farm equipment. Hence the farmers have to harvest the yields manually. 

Additionally, the panels raised over seven feet allow the farmers to graze their animals on the grass growing below the panels. Other small farm animals like chickens can feed below the panels. Researchers at the University of Minnesota discovered that the animals grazing below the panels also enjoy the shade and have proper feeding habits. These animals gave higher yields than those exposed to the sun the whole day. 

Landowners who desire to enjoy solar energy without affecting their farming operations have the opportunity to experience both. Moreover, they obtain energy at low costs since they provide the land on which these resources are installed. The panels are also useful in impeding land degradation through soil erosion and evaporation processes. Finally, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is promoting the integration of these activities through research and education of the farmers on the advantages of the integration.