Climate change in general, and in the Middle East in particular, is leading to a significant rise in temperatures, desertification, and an increase in extreme climatic events. The Arava region is particularly vulnerable considering the lengthening of the summer season by two months, followed by the shortening of the winter season. Water is a scarce resource, a result of a decrease in precipitation, evaporation, and increased consumption. These phenomena harm agricultural lands and crops, intensify competition for resources and increase energy demand (for desalination, cooling, and air conditioning).
Especially in an arid climate, the synergistic effects of Agrivoltaics systems are the most promising. It can be expressed in increased yield production because of the reduction of the negative effects of radiation, and in slow evaporation under the shade which may reduce water consumption and minimize financial losses due to increased irrigation during droughts.
In May 2021, an experimental Agrivoltaics facility was established in the southern Arava R&D, which examines the impact on the growth of field crops. During the past year, tomatoes, scallions, lettuce, corn, and wheat were planted in two plots – in the shade and full sun. Preliminary data found interesting differences in growth characteristics and yield between the plots. In the next phase of the research, we will examine whether the impact of the microclimate created under the shade reduces panels’ temperature and increases the efficiency and electricity output.
The major goal of the study is to develop an off-grid system that provides a holistic solution to the water-energy-food nexus, which can be installed in areas without access to water and electricity, and to increase food security. The electricity generated from the solar panels aims to enable access to water (through desalination, purification, or water pumps) for drinking and agriculture, operate the irrigation system and a cooling room for post-harvest storage needs, and for any other local uses which require electricity. Such systems are relevant to communities without access to infrastructures in Africa, the Bedouin tribes in the Negev, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jordan.