Tomatoes grown under the light-filtering solar panels at the UC Davis Agricultural Experiment Station. Photo Credit: Majdi Abou Najm/UC DavisEnvironmentTechnology USA
Joining Forces: Farmers Can Harvest Crops AND Clean Energy
According to a recent study conducted by scientists affiliated with the University of California, United States, it is possible for farmers to yield crops while generating clean energy, through the use of solar panels specially designed to benefit both fields.
“By 2050, we’ll have [an additional] two billion people on this planet, and we’ll need 60% more food, 40% more water, and 50% more energy” than is currently produced, says Abou Najm, an associate professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis and an Institute of the Environment fellow, and co-author of the study. By maximizing the solar spectrum, “we’re optimizing an endlessly sustainable resource. If a technology kicks in that can develop these panels, then the sky is the limit on how optimized we can be.”
Photo-selective PV panels can filter blue waves to generate power and allow red waves to reach crops below them. Organic solar cells are thin, translucent, and can be applied like a film on various surfaces including glass. A limited field study showed that filters reduce heat stress, cut crop wastage, improve soil moisture, and shield farmworkers from the sun. The field of agrovoltaics – where land is used for harvesting food and solar energy – could grow to make maximum use of farmland, compensating for the diminished harvest by generating energy, and attaining up to 140% combined yields. With this study, researchers hope “to motivate the industry to create a new generation of solar panels.”