Cornell University researchers have found that soybeans planted under 3.9 meter high solar modules can have a positive effect on panel temperatures and the microclimate of farms.
Agrivoltaics solves at least two critical needs. Solar energy provides renewable energy, which is needed to mitigate the effects of climate change and at the same time meet global energy demand. Crops grown alongside the sun will help feed the growing world population, which is projected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations.
Researchers at Cornell University have studied agricultural electrical engineering to see if there is any basis for the view that co-located sites see major trade-offs between food and energy production. Their research has shown that solar and plant production can not only coexist, but how co-location improves the microclimate of farms and the surface temperature of solar modules.
The researchers developed a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) microclimate model that they evaluated against experimental data to study the effects of panel height, light reflectance (albedo), and how much water evaporates (evapotranspiration) in a PV area. They published their results in Applied energy.
“We now have, for the first time, a physics-based tool to assess the costs and benefits of co-locating solar panels and commercial agriculture in terms of improving power conversion efficiency and solar panel sustainability,” says lead author Henry Williams. , a graduate student in the engineering department at Cornell University.
The team demonstrated an agricultural power plant where soybeans grow under solar modules that were installed about 3.9 meters above the ground. The project resulted in solar module temperatures dropping by as much as 50 F (10 C) compared to solar plants installed just 1.6 feet above bare ground.
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