The revolution in the renewable energy sector is facing a major land use issue that threatens to impact the growth trajectory of the clean energy sector especially in a country like India. Renewable energy infrastructure like wind and solar farms which are considered as mass-scale take up much more land area than traditional fossil fuel production plants, and this huge sector needs more land area with other major industries such as agriculture. The renewables sector will have to get creative about using land more efficiently in the coming years and in a more collaborative manner.
What is Agrivoltaics and its benefits:
Agrivoltaic systems are photovoltaic (PV) technologies in which PV panels are positioned at a height that allows for regular farming practices to be carried out below. Agrivoltaic systems improve water use efficiency and lessen water stress, which helps crop yield while also preserving agricultural land. Due to these benefits, interest in Agrivoltaic systems is growing in the market, but still their adoption is constrained by the lack of a comprehensive environmental and economic analysis available in the market. The reduced impact on land occupation and the stabilisation of crop production are relevant added values that should be properly valorized in a future energy system dominated by increasing human land appropriation and climate change. This chapter explains the Agrivoltaic system, its concepts, research and development in India.
Its Benefits for Agriculture and Solar Energy Sector:
Agrivoltaics offers a slew of benefits for both agriculture and solar energy production such as Agrivoltaics can supercharge land productivity by up to 60%, enabling simultaneous farming and energy generation. Solar panels cast shade on crops, curbing water evaporation and helps in the crop yield, mostly in arid regions. It also helps to get extra Income for the farmers. The electricity generated can power farm operations or be sold to the grid. It will help the farmers with an additional revenue stream. Agrivoltaics also helps to reduce the need for separate solar farms, safeguarding natural habitats and biodiversity.
Its Impact on a global level:
While Agrivoltaics has not been employed at large scale yet, some Agri Voltaics pilot projects are already being implemented in many countries. In a country like Germany, farmers are growing hay in the furrows between rows of standing solar panels. Grapevines are growing in the shade of solar panels on vineyards in France, and tea leaves are benefitting from panel-produced shade in Japan. There are many other similar innovations available in shared use systems as well, such as sheep that share their pastures with solar panels in Canada and Australia, and apiaries that allow imperilled honeybees to share space on solar farms.
Future of AgriVoltaics in the renewable energy sector:
The future of AgriVoltaics in the renewable energy sector looks promising, with growing interest and huge demand from farmers, researchers, and policymakers. With the growing technological advancements and more pilot projects being conducted, AgriVoltaics will soon become a common practice in sustainable agriculture and renewable energy generation. Technological Breakthroughs: Innovations in solar panel design, mounting systems, and energy storage will further enhance the efficiency and feasibility of agrivoltaics. Policy Momentum: Government policies and incentives will play a pivotal role in propelling Agri Voltaics and addressing challenges such as initial investment costs and land-use regulations. Global Adoption: As the benefits of Agri Voltaics become more evident, the practice is expected to gain traction worldwide, contributing to global sustainability goals.
The potential benefits of advancing and scaling AgriVoltaics in the coming years are enormous, and could help to change agriculture as well as the renewable energy industry all across the world. With the combining of solar panels with farmland, Agrivoltaics is unlocking new potential for land productivity, water conservation, and additional income for farmers day by day. Agrivoltaics has the potential to become a key player in the transition to a more sustainable and resilient future.
By Tanmoy Duari, CEO, AXITEC Energy India Pvt. Ltd, Leading Solar Module Manufacturer