The revolution in the renewable energy sector is facing a serious land use problem that threatens to affect the growth trajectory of the clean energy sector, especially in a country like India. Renewable energy infrastructure such as wind and solar farms, which are considered mainstream, take up much more land than traditional fossil fuel plants, and this huge sector needs more land with other large industries such as agriculture. The renewable energy sector will need to get creative towards more efficient land use in the coming years and in a more collaborative way.
What is agrivoltaica and its benefits:
Agrovoltaic systems are photovoltaic (PV) technologies where the photovoltaic panels are placed at a height that allows regular farming practices to take place below. Agrivoltaic systems improve water use efficiency and reduce water stress, which helps crop yields while conserving farmland. Due to these advantages, interest in agrovoltaic systems is growing in the market, but still their adoption is limited by the lack of comprehensive environmental and economic analysis available in the market. Reduced impact on land occupation and stabilization of crop production are relevant added values that must be properly assessed in a future energy system dominated by increasing human land appropriation and climate change. This chapter explains the agrivoltaic system, its concepts, research and development in India.
Its benefits for agriculture and solar energy sector:
Agrivoltaics offers multiple benefits to both agriculture and solar energy production, Agrivoltaics can increase land productivity by up to 60%, enabling agriculture and power generation at the same time. Solar panels cast shade on crops, limiting water evaporation and helping crop yields, especially in dry areas. This also helps in generating additional income for the farmers. The electricity produced can power farm operations or be sold to the grid. This will help farmers with an additional income stream. Agrivoltaics also helps reduce the need for individual solar farms while preserving natural habitats and biodiversity.
Its impact at the global level:
Although Agrivoltaics has not yet been used on a large scale, some pilot projects for Agri Voltaics are already being implemented in many countries. In a country like Germany, farmers grow hay in the furrows between rows of standing solar panels. The vines grow in the shade of the solar panels on the vineyards in France, and the tea leaves benefit from the shade produced by the panels in Japan. There are many other similar innovations available in shared-use systems as well, such as sheep sharing pastures with solar panels in Canada and Australia, and apiaries allowing endangered honey bees to share space in solar farms.
The future of AgriVoltaics in the renewable energy sector:
The future of AgriVoltaics in the renewable energy sector looks promising, with growing interest and huge demand from farmers, researchers and policymakers. With increasing technological advances and more pilot projects taking place, AgriVoltaics will soon become common practice in sustainable agriculture and renewable energy production. Technological breakthroughs: Innovations in solar panel design, mounting systems and energy storage will further improve the efficiency and feasibility of agrivoltaics. Policy impetus: Government policies and incentives will play a key role in driving Agri Voltaics and addressing challenges such as initial investment costs and land use regulations. Global Adoption: As the benefits of Agri Voltaics become more evident, the practice is expected to gain popularity globally, contributing to global sustainability goals.
The potential benefits of advancing and scaling AgriVoltaics in the coming years are enormous and could help transform agriculture as well as the renewable energy industry worldwide. By combining solar panels with agricultural land, Agrivoltaics unlocks new potential for land productivity, water conservation and additional income for farmers every day. Agrivoltaics has the potential to become a key player in the transition to a more sustainable and sustainable future.
By Tanmoy Duari, CEO, AXITEC Energy India Pvt. Ltd, a leading manufacturer of solar modules