Agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics combines the agricultural land use with the production of renewable photovoltaic electricity. It allows for production of food crops and electricity generation at the same time, under consideration of soil protection and water savings.

What is Agrivoltaics?

Agrivoltaics utilizes specific solar arrays in combination with certain agricultural practices based on region and climate. This creates a symbiotic relationship between solar power and agriculture, allowing both to flourish while also optimizing land use.

Today, we see Agrivoltaics entering the markets in many regions of the world with systems and approaches of great diversity. In some areas, agrivoltaics is already a well-established technology, while, in most countries like the United States, the concept is still widely unknown, with very few applications. Sandbox Solar aims to change this by installing agrivoltaic solar arrays throughout the state of Colorado to increase awareness, research, and innovation in the solar and agriculture industries.

We couldn’t be more excited about the future of Agrivoltaics and its effects on a more self-sufficient future.

THE Spring Hill Greens Agrivoltaics PROJECT

Spring Hill Greens is a local Fort Collins farm that strives to be entirely carbon-neutral. So naturally, they would need an extensive solar system to generate sufficient power for their entire farm to be energy self-sufficient. However, Spring Hill Greens required more land to support a conventional ground-mount solar array. What they needed was an agrivoltaic solution. So they called their local agrivoltaic solar company, Sandbox Solar.

The CSU ARDEC Agrivoltaics Project

Sandbox Solar has an ongoing agrivoltaic research project in partnership with the Colorado State University Research Farm at ARDEC South. Thanks to funding secured from the USDA SBIR grant, Sandbox Solar was able to install 9 separate agrivoltaic arrays. These arrays test certain crop types with varying solar panel transparency to measure the results. Sandbox Solar and the CSU Department of Agriculture utilize this research for educational and practical implementation.

NATIVE HILL AGRIVOLTAICS PROJECT

This Native Hill Farms solar agrivoltaic array is quite unique! Our local farmers wanted a way to integrate enough solar to power their entire farm but could not find a way without sacrificing precious fertile farming land! That’s where the expertise of Sandbox Solar comes into play! As one of the few agrivoltaic companies in the country, Sandbox Solar has the skills, experience, and knowledge to tackle this complex challenge.

AGRIVOLTAICS AT TED

TEDx ROOFTOP AGPV – Dr. Bousselot

  • Over 50% of the world’s population lives in urban settings
  • There is enough roof space in the City of Denver to produce 5 million pounds of food
  • Green Roofs are “water limited” systems
  • Solar panels provide a unique growing environment: 
    • Cooler in the Summer / Warmer in the Winter
    • Less wind / Higher soil moisture
    • Less sunlight = Less harmful UV radiation
  • Solar (PV) panels benefit operate more efficiently with plants underneath
  • Buy Local Food!

ROOFTOP AGRIVOLTAIC RESEARCH

Rooftop agrivoltaics is the co-location of solar panels (photovoltaics) and food production on rooftops. Combining green roofs with rooftop solar is still in its infancy, but these systems’ synergies are well documented. The plants benefit from the solar panels’ protection, and panel performance improves on warm days due to the evaporative cooling that the plants provide. Agrivoltaic systems are currently used in farm fields but taking this concept to a rooftop is still unique.

With an increasingly urban population worldwide, having a hyper-local food source on the only remaining available space in urban areas, rooftops, can improve urban populations’ resilience – especially in times of crisis when food distribution chains may be disrupted. Renewable energy generation onsite also contributes to a more sustainable urban community, especially as non-renewable energy sources begin to decline. Educate yourself on the benefits and synergies of green roofs, ask your local government and energy providers how they support rooftop agrivoltaics, and seek out local food sources to help this emerging technology.

THE SYNERGY OF ROOFTOP AGRIVOLTAICS

  • Shade from raised solar modules can project green roof plants species or edible plants from the harsh and exposed conditions that exist on rooftops.
  • Transpiration from the plants rises to cool the bottom side of the solar modules, allowing them to operate more efficiently throughout the summer growing season.

FOOD-ENERGY-WATER

The FEW nexus is the intersection of food, energy, and water, three interdependent components that, together, are the lifeblood of the Earth. By 2025, there will be nine billion people on Earth. Unless we are able to thoroughly understand the connection between all three, global efforts to meet the needs of people on Earth will fail.

In this sense, the FEW nexus affects everybody, from government, to industry, to academia, to citizens across the globe.

FOOD

Keeping agricultural lands in production & maintaining access to sustainable and nutritious food.

ENERGY

Supplying the demand for renewable energy demand for a growing population in urban and rural regions of the world.

WATER

Reducing water consumption & maintaining clean water access for a growing population.

SANDBOX SOLAR AGRIVOLTAIC RESEARCH

In the summer of 2018, Sandbox Solar was granted a CSU Energy Institute 2018 Internship to pilot study agrivoltaics. This initial pilot study was conducted from June – October 2018 at CSU’s ARDEC South Research Farm. We tested 3 types of panels with varying transparency along with the growing conditions and plant growth underneath.

In 2019, Sandbox Solar was granted a USDA NIFA SBIR Phase 1 award to continue the study of agrivoltaics with semi-transparent technologies. Sandbox installed 9 separate pole mounts with 3 different panel transparencies. We have been working with the CSU Specialty Crops Program to collect data yield data and growing environment data.

Partner Horiculture Landscape Architecture CSU
Partner CSU Energy
Partner USDA NIFA
sandbox solar foothills campus rooftop agrivoltaics projectsandbox solar foothills campus rooftop agrivoltaics project

Rooftop Agrivoltaic Research Plot at the Foothills Campus

CSU / Specialty Crops Field Day 2020 + CRES / A New Land Use Model

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