Agro-photovoltaics is now a common type of solar installation, which not only retains crops, but also develops green electricity. A recent study from the US pointed out that agro-photovoltaics systems are taller compared to traditional solar panels that could improve the cooling effect of modules, as well as achieve a better performance in power generation, and prolong module lifespan.
The research team at Cornell University conducted the study from a physical point of view, and observed the level of cost and efficacy for agro-photovoltaics by increasing the conversion efficiency of solar panels and extending module lifespan. According to the previous study by Advising Professor Max Zhang, the US has about 40% of public solar power plants constructed on farmlands, and 84% of land that is regarded as suitable for solar development comes from farmlands.
Agro-photovoltaics has thus become a solution that avoids the predicament where green electricity fights with agriculture on farmlands. The research team evaluated the height, ground light reflection, and evapotranspiration rate of agro-photovoltaics solar panels according to microclimate models based on fluid mechanics and temperature data of solar panels, and came to a conclusion that agro-photovoltaics will resolve food-energy problems.
Research results indicate that modules installed above vegetation dropped in temperature at a faster rate compared to general ground-mounted solar panels, and pointed out that solar panels situated 4m above soya bean can lower 10°C in temperature compared to solar panels installed 50m above the ground.
The cooling effect of modules is even more significant thanks to the strong evapotranspiration rate and ground reflection rate, and such passive cooling not only improves power generation efficiency of solar panels, but also prolongs lifespan of solar panels, which eventually elevates long-term economic potential. First author Henry Williams commented that the study shows two benefits that are the production of crops on the one hand, as well as improvement on the economic efficacy of solar power on the other hand.
Although taller solar panels would translate to a higher preliminary cost, the data of World Resources Institute indicates that the global demand for food will grow by 50% by 2050 in order to feed a population of 10 billion, making agro-photovoltaics a win-win concept.
(Cover photo source: unsplash)