Home Precision Agriculture Researchers Find Pasture Land Is Great for Solar Panels

Researchers Find Pasture Land Is Great for Solar Panels


The time period “agrivoltaics” refers to an agricultural system that shares area with photo voltaic panels. One concern about such a system is that photo voltaic panels, being nonetheless comparatively inefficient, require tons and many area. If that area is taken up with photo voltaic panels, how can it even be used for agriculture? Nonetheless, a brand new examine out of Oregon State College finds that pasture land may very well be ultimate, creating minimal losses in yield whereas offering a lot of renewable vitality. 

The examine examined sheep pastures in Oregon over two years, measuring their effectivity each with and with out photo voltaic panels put in. The important thing to measuring this type of effectivity is that there are all types of various metrics to make use of, which all contribute to a holistic understanding of advantages and downsides. 

At its absolute most elementary, the return from grazing with out photo voltaic panels got here in at $1,046 per acre, whereas the land with photo voltaic panels returned $1,029 per acre. That’s shut sufficient to be primarily equal. However that determine doesn’t embody the monetary advantages of the electrical energy produced by the panels, which might be both used to scale back a rancher’s price of operation or offered again to the electrical grid at a revenue. After all, it additionally doesn’t embody the price of putting in or sustaining the panels, which is extra of a short-term expense.

However there are extra in-depth metrics than simply {dollars} earned per acre. Lambs gained about the identical quantity of weight on the similar charge whatever the presence of photo voltaic panels, however in late spring, the sheep within the solar-paneled pastures required considerably much less water. 

There’s additionally the difficulty of amount versus high quality of the forage plant materials grown within the pastures. The solar-paneled pastures produced 38 p.c much less forage, owing to the elevated quantity of shade. However there was about twice as a lot legume content material within the forage of the solar-paneled pasture than within the non-paneled pasture. In actual fact, the general vitamin make-up of the forage within the solar-paneled pasture was considerably elevated over the non-paneled pasture. There could have been much less meals, but it surely was a lot increased high quality, which promotes faster development.

There are different advantages, too. Solar panels present shade for the sheep to face beneath, which reduces the necessity to construct shade-providing buildings and doubtless has one thing to do with the sheep’s decreased want for water within the examine. And, after all, the realm beneath the panels doesn’t have to be mowed or maintained in the identical manner that open pasture land does, and any discount in work might be a rise in revenue for a rancher or farmer.

Agrivoltaics received’t essentially work for each agricultural state of affairs, but it surely appears clear that, on this explicit case, photo voltaic panels can fortunately—and profitably—coexist with livestock.


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