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.

Today, we see agrivoltaics entering the markets in many regions of the world with systems and approaches of great diversity. In some regions, 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.

Since 2018, Sandbox Solar has been researching various agrivoltaic solutions in our semi-arid Colorado climate in a collaborative effort with the Colorado State University Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture.

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.

source: University of Arizona

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.

CSU / Specialty Crops Field Day 2020

CRES / A New Land Use Model

CSU & Sandbox Solar AGPV Research Plot

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.

 

 

 

Rooftop Agrivoltaic Research Plot at the Foothills Campus

CSU Next Generation PV Research Array

Lettuce Growing in Green Roof Trays Under Solar Modules

TEDx ROOFTOP AGPV – Dr. Bousselot

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TAKE-AWAYS FROM THE VIDEO

  • 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!

MODELING AGRIVOLTAIC SOLUTIONS

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