Rainfall that can damage crops is intensifying, due to the heat it has a lot of moisture. Madhu Khanna, an economist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who also won funding from the new USDA agrivoltaics grant. “This is another thing we want to look at.”
Khanna will learn about the sun’s potential for a particular crop, for example, if it needs large or small gaps between panels for sunlight to pass through. Length, too, is a problem: Cereals and grains require longer panels, while flying soybeans can be good with many squat varieties.
Thanks to these openings, the seeds grown under the sunlight are not illuminated by darkness. In most cases, however, the light is more diffused — meaning it emerges from the surface before hitting the seed. This is similar to the nature of natural forests, where all plants, except the tallest trees, hang in the shade, carrying whatever light passes through.
Barron-Gafford has discovered that the forest-like darkness under the electric current emits energy from plants. In order to collect more light, their leaves grow larger than they would if planted in the yard. He has seen this happen in basil, which can increase crop yields. Barron-Gafford has also found that pepper Potatoes, which grows in the shade of trees in the wild, produces three times as much fruit in the agrivoltaic system. Tomato plants also bear much fruit. This is because the plants are not stressed by direct sunlight, where they have not changed.
Each plant will be different, so scientists should try each to see how it reacts to the shade. “For example, we probably wouldn’t recommend that someone plant a squash in the summer in a deep shade, under a group,” said Mark Uchanski, an agronomist at Colorado State University who is studying agrivoltaics and experimenting with the same. “A better place can go beyond the end where there can be more sun, because we’ve seen the yields decrease there.”
By setting up panels including a front-end price, they can make money for farmers, such as Kominek told Grist in this 2020 article before making his plates. They generate energy for the farm, and the farmer can sell any residue for use. And since some crops – such as salsa blends in the Barron-Gafford experiment – will use less water, which would reduce irrigation costs. “If we allow farmers to diversify their produce and get more from the same area, then it can benefit them,” Khanna said. “Having access to crops and natural resources is more important than natural resources.”
This type of cooling also cools the solar panels in two ways: Water evaporates from the soil and rises to the surface, and plants release their water. This is essential for efficient operation, as it works best when it is very hot. They generate electricity when solar photons emit electrons from atoms, but when heated, the electrons become excessive and do not produce much electricity when released.