Another study has highlighted the advantages of combining solar with agriculture. According to the paper, growing chiltepin pepper, jalapeno and cherry tomato in dryland areas of the U.S. under the shade of PV modules is not only possible, but can lead to a better harvest.
Researchers from the University of Arizona have claimed growing crops in the shade of solar panels can lead to two or three times more vegetable and fruit production than conventional agriculture.
In a study published in Nature, the group presented the results of a multi-year research project investigating how chiltepin pepper, jalapeno and cherry tomato plants grew in the shade of PV panels in a dryland location.
During the three-month summer growing season, the research team monitored microclimatic conditions such as light levels, air temperature and relative humidity, as well as PV panel temperature, soil moisture and irrigation water use, plant ecophysiological function and plant biomass production. The monitoring was carried out by sensors above the soil surface and at a depth of 5cm.
Shading is good
The scientists said their measurements showed how shading from the panels had a positive impact on air temperature, direct sunlight and atmospheric demand for water. “The shade provided by the PV panels resulted in cooler daytime temperatures and warmer nighttime temperatures than the traditional, open-sky planting system,” they wrote. “There was also a lower vapor pressure deficit in the agrivoltaics system, meaning there was more moisture in the air.”