Mr. Jordon Macknick
Agrivoltaics in Arid Environments: Keys to Successful Projects
National Renewable Energy Laboratory, USA
Agrivoltaic installations, which combine solar energy technologies and agricultural activities in the same land space, can provide simultaneous food, energy, and water benefits to arid regions. Crop yields and vegetation growth can be increased, water requirements can be reduced, and lower temperatures from vegetation can lead to higher energy output. However, for agrivoltaic projects to provide sustained benefits to multiple stakeholders, five key conditions, termed “The 5 Cs,” must be met. First, the 1) Climate and ambient environmental conditions must be able to support vegetation growth. Second, the 2) Configuration of the solar technologies implemented must allow for appropriate sunlight and shading to create ideal microclimates. Third, the 3) Crop selection and vegetation establishment methods must be aligned with the altered microclimate the technology configuration creates. Fourth, the solar installation must be 4) Compatible with the agricultural planting, maintenance, and harvesting methods. Lastly, 5) Collaboration and partnerships across energy and agricultural sectors must be durable and mutually beneficial to ensure continued operations over the long-term. Building on six years of agrivoltaic research across 25 field research sites in the United States, we examine how various approaches and variations of the 5 Cs have led to successes and failures in commercial and research-based agrivoltaics projects. Lessons learned from these agrivoltaic sites can help inform future research as well as deployment of agrivoltaic systems to across the globe to ensure more successful, mutually beneficial projects.