Installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency, new study shows

Installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency, new study shows
Sheep graze under the 35th Street Solar Array at Oregon State University. Credit: Mark Floyd,

The most productive places on Earth for solar power are farmlands, according to an Oregon State University study.

The study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, finds that if less than 1 percent of was converted to , it would be sufficient to fulfill global electric energy demand. The concept of co-developing the same area of land for both solar photovoltaic power and conventional agriculture is known as agrivoltaics.

"Our results indicate that there's a huge potential for solar and agriculture to work together to provide reliable energy," said corresponding author Chad Higgins, an associate professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "There's an old adage that agriculture can overproduce anything. That's what we found in electricity, too. It turns out that 8,000 years ago, farmers found the best places to harvest on Earth."

The results have implications for the current practice of constructing large solar arrays in deserts, Higgins said.

"Solar panels are finicky," he said. "Their efficiency drops the hotter the panels get. That barren land is hotter. Their productivity is less than what it could be per acre."

For their study, OSU researchers analyzed power production data collected by Tesla, which has installed five large grid-tied, ground-mounted solar electric arrays on agricultural lands owned by Oregon State. Specifically, the team looked at data collected every 15 minutes at the 35th Street Solar Array installed in 2013 on the west side of OSU's Corvallis campus.

The researchers synchronized the Tesla information with data collected by microclimate research stations they installed at the array that recorded mean air temperature, relative humidity, , wind direction, soil moisture and incoming solar energy.

Installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency, new study shows
Researchers installed meteorological instruments in and adjacent to the 35th Street Solar Array at Oregon State University to measure temperature, relative humidity, wind speed wind direction and incoming solar energy. Photo by Elnaz Hassanpour. Credit: Elnaz Hassanpour, Oregon State University

Based on those results, Elnaz Hassanpour Adeh, a recent Ph.D. graduate from OSU's water resources engineering program and co-author on the study, developed a model for photovoltaic efficiency as a function of air temperature, wind speed and relative humidity.

"We found that when it's cool outside the efficiency gets better," Higgins said. "If it's hot the efficiency gets worse. When it is dead calm the efficiency is worse, but some wind makes it better. As the conditions became more humid, the panels did worse. Solar panels are just like people and the weather, they are happier when it's cool and breezy and dry."

Using global maps made from , Adeh then applied that model worldwide, spanning 17 classes of globally accepted land cover, including classes such as croplands, mixed forests, urban and savanna. The classes were then ranked from best (croplands) to worst (snow/ice) in terms of where a solar panel would be most productive.

The model was then re-evaluated to assess the agrivoltaic potential to meet projected global electric energy demand that has been determined by the World Bank.

Higgins and Adeh previously published research that shows that solar panels increase agricultural production on dry, unirrigated farmland. Those results indicated that locating solar panels on pasture or agricultural fields could increase crop yields.


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Solar arrays could be used as resources for plant productivity, study shows

More information: Elnaz H. Adeh et al. Solar PV Power Potential is Greatest Over Croplands, Scientific Reports (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-47803-3
Journal information: Scientific Reports

Citation: Installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency, new study shows (2019, August 8) retrieved 24 August 2019 from https://techxplore.com/news/2019-08-solar-panels-agricultural-maximizes-efficiency.html
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Aug 09, 2019
Another steaming load of AGW Cult bullshit.
It's obscene for what idiots the Cult takes their flock.
Gobble up, Chicken Littles.

Aug 09, 2019
@antigoracle.

It's amazing what "weaponised stupids" and/or bots can do on the net these days, hey @antigoracle? Your daily betrayal of all that is ethical may earn you your 'thirty pieces of silver' for the moment, but your family/descendants will pay for it manyfold in the future. You have demonstrated that you and your troll-factory-employed mates are such twisted/mercenary bots and/or weaponised-stupids that there's no hope of reason or humanity being realised in you or your programmers/handlers any time soon. Pity.

Aug 10, 2019
daily betrayal of all that is ethical


This is a question of science, not ethics. If you mix the two up, you're playing right into his bag by making what's essentially appeals to morality (emotion) rather than rationality and what is knowable.

You won't win that game - arguing on the level of morals is much like arguing at the level of religion because neither has any means to show themselves to be correct - you simply have to assert your righteousness which is exactly what he is doing.

Playing that game means accepting these rules, which simply validates his position from his point of view and yours from your point of view. It's no answer to anything at all.

Aug 10, 2019
@Eikka.
This is a question of science, not ethics. If you mix the two up, you're playing right into his bag by making what's essentially appeals to morality (emotion) rather than rationality and what is knowable. You won't win that game - arguing on the level of morals is much like arguing at the level of religion because neither has any means to show themselves to be correct - you simply have to assert your righteousness which is exactly what he is doing.
I used "ethical" advisedly in context of objective reasoning/responsibility re scientifically observed reality & subjective responsibility/humanity re one's own/family's/society's future wellbeing/survival. In those contexts the 'ethics are clear/common to sane/reasonable observers/actors. In those contexts the choices made unambiguously demonstrate one's objectivity/sanity; ie, repeatedly ignoring/obfuscating the science/humanity for political/mercenary gain is clearly un-ethical by any sane/non-criminal standard. Agreed? :)

Aug 11, 2019
In those contexts the 'ethics are clear/common to sane/reasonable observers/actors.


No, that's still the same arbitrary value judgement.

For example, it can be argued that we should do nothing about the climate change because "doing something" necessarily requires that the population is forced to act against their individual judgements, and that's not a sustainable situation because you have to create a system of eco-fascism which will inevitably cause more harm than it solves. You would essentially be "saving" humanity by throwing it under the bus.

Or, another argument along the same lines is that attempting to "regulate" humanity now to minimize the size and impact of the climate catastrophe is fundamentally meaningless, because the population keeps growing anyhow and it merely pushes back the inevitable Malthusian crash. Hence nothing is really gained because saving people now means killing more people later.

What is "ethical" is subjective, not scientific

Aug 11, 2019
In those contexts the choices made unambiguously demonstrate one's objectivity/sanity


See; you're acting just like him, defining yourself to be objective and sane - while relying on subjective values. It is because YOU value these things that you hold them to be universally objective, which makes it a false argument.

One doesn't necessarily have to draw the same conclusions from reality as you do, and the reasons for doing so can be equally rational - it depends on your fundamental assumptions (axioms). This is known as the demarcation problem: there's no way to tell science from non-science because you can't defend your axioms - you just have to assert them. If you take them as dogmas, you're dealing with religion.

Whether your assumptions about reality lead to useful knowledge defines whether you're dealing with "science" or something else. Someone can start from a different position and come up with answers that work just as well - just not the same as yours.

Aug 11, 2019
@Eikka.

Mate, that's sophistry. As a society we do many things for public health, security etc; no "fascism" involved, only common sense, and having regard for the extant realities re disease/danger that can be avoided/minimised by prudent public/scientific/logical measures which the sane, responsible members of a society will object to at their own peril (eg, 'antivaxxers' who not only endanger their own children but also the rest of society's children before they are old enough to be vaccinated). Please don't make the sane/reasonable thing into a politico-philosophical thing. It is self-evident that sanity/reasonableness and objectivity is best for making such far-reaching decisions about imminent danger/threats affecting the globe. Just because you take the political/philosophical argument/stance it doesn't mean the sane/reasonable science/prudence-based decisions should be left to those insane/mercenary types who would sell out your/everyone's future for power/profit. Ok? :)

Aug 11, 2019
@antigoracle.

It's amazing what "weaponised stupids" and/or bots can do on the net these days, hey @antigoracle? Your daily betrayal of all that is ethical may earn you your 'thirty pieces of silver' for the moment, but your family/descendants will pay for it manyfold in the future. You have demonstrated that you and your troll-factory-employed mates are such twisted/mercenary bots and/or weaponised-stupids that there's no hope of reason or humanity being realised in you or your programmers/handlers any time soon. Pity.


Or just another Republican Aid doing due diligance.

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