Solar PV technology development boosts Crop Growth, sparking a new field of Agrivoltaics

January 2, 2024

Within an ever-evolving landscape of solar technology, thin-film solar modules are emerging as the game-changer, especially in the realms of Agrivoltaics. Unlike their traditional counterparts which are commonly found on the roofs of properties across the globe, these lightweight and flexible solar cells are proving to be highly adaptable to the unique challenges faced by farmers.  As climate changes continue to intensify, agrivoltaics presents a promising solution for not only harnessing solar power but also protecting crops from extreme weather conditions. 

As solar power continues to gain global popularity, development of more efficient and lightweight PV modules was always going to be the logical next step. As recent as the last few years development of thin-film solar cells entered development, bringing with them a new era of efficiency, versatility and adaptability. The flexible design of such thin-film modules allows them to be attached to surfaces of various shapes without the need for extensive structural support. This breakthrough technology opens up a new realm of opportunities for solar power utilisation in unconventional locations where traditional rigid PV modules would be impractical.

Agrivoltaics (APV), an emerging fields within solar technology addresses the escalating impacts of climate change in regards to the health of crops under punishing temperatures. Strategically placing arrays of solar modules above crop areas, agrivoltaics provides partial shade, reducing sunburn, minimising water evaporation and insulating crops from extreme weather conditions. Moreover, farmers benefit from a secondary revenue stream through power generation and export. 

Implementation of traditional rigid solar panels within agricultural environments poses several logistical challenges. The weight and size of the panels requires substantial support structures, leading to excessive shading that can hinder crop growth. This imbalance often results in reduced land productivity. Additionally the underground installation of electrical conduits for traditional solar modules limits irrigation methods and restricts the types of crops that can be grown in tandem with the solar array. 

Thin-film solar cells offer a compelling solution to this problem. Their flexible and lightweight design allows for elevated placement above crops, ensuring: full land utilisation for crop growth; optimal distribution of partial sun and shade to promote healthy crop development, compatibility with standard machinery for crop servicing and harvesting, thanks to their lightweight nature. Plus greater energy savings,increased water efficiency and resilience against damage.

As domestic farmers increasingly turn to agrivoltaics to enhance revenues, reduce energy costs, and improve crop yields, the adoption of thin-film solar technology is set to soar. While traditional solar panels have their place in certain applications, the flexible nature of thin-film solar makes it the ideal choice for navigating the delicate balance between crops and their sunlight needs. 

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