Agro-photovoltaics (Agro-PV) is a common solar installation that combines farming with solar energy production. It not only maintains agricultural production but also promotes green electricity production. Recently, a study in the United States has shown that Agro-PV systems have a higher mounting height than traditional solar panels, which can improve module cooling and bring better power generation performance while also extending module lifespan.
This time, a team from Cornell University used a physics perspective to study the cost and benefits of Agro-PV, focusing on improving solar panel power conversion efficiency and extending module lifespan. According to Professor Max Zhang’s previous research, about 40% of utility-scale solar power plants in the United States are built on farmland, and approximately 84% of land suitable for solar energy development is considered agricultural land.
o avoid land conflicts with farming, the Agro-PV is an option that can mutually benefit both electricity production and farming. The team used a microclimate model based on fluid mechanics and temperature data from solar panels to evaluate the height of Agro-PV solar panels, ground light reflection, and transpiration rate. The team ultimately believed that Agro-PV could solve future food-energy problems.
The results showed that compared to mounting solar panels on the ground, the module surface temperature on crops drops faster. The study showed that compared to solar panels mounted 50 cm above the ground, solar panels located 4 meters above soybeans can cool down by 10 degrees. This is because vegetation and soil have a higher transpiration rate and ground reflectivity, resulting in a more significant cooling effect on modules. This passive cooling not only improves solar panel power generation efficiency but also extends the module’s lifespan, ultimately improving the long-term economic potential. First author Henry Williams stated that the study shows dual benefits, both in terms of food production and solar energy economic benefits.
Although higher solar panels mean higher initial costs, according to data from the World Resources Institute, global food demand is expected to increase by 50% by 2050 to feed the world’s 10 billion people. Therefore, Agro-PV is a mutually beneficial concept.
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Source: TechNews Taiwan https://technews.tw/2023/03/06/growing-crops-solar-farms/