Solar panels and plants seem to be in direct competition for the sun. Plants are after the sun for photosynthesis, while solar panels want to turn electrons into electricity. Is there enough sunlight for both? Will the rise in solar power have an effect on agriculture?
There’s really no loser in this battle for energy from the sun. As some plants burn in direct sunlight, there is an abundance of food crops that do not stand in the way of solar energy panels.
A recent study by Greg Barron-Gafford at the University of Arizona focuses on areas like the southwestern states of the US, where climates are drier. Solar panels produced enough shade to lower the soil temperatures, as well as prevent evaporation. By the same token, the crops considerably cool down the solar panels, as opposed to bare ground installation, which would result in a higher generation of solar-powered energy.
The outcome indicated that combining solar panels and crops did lower the temperature by 1°C during the day. The solar panels themselves were about 9°C cooler due to the plant growth. As well, the air was not as dry underneath the panels while the soil took less time to dry between watering times.
Based on these findings, the study indicated that the combined effect lowered temperatures and thus increased the generation of solar power by three percent in the summer and an average gain of one percent.
While the cost of raising solar panels higher might be a bit costly, and some of the equipment used to harvest crops might not be compatible with the panel itself, it does make sense. Farmers can earn a profit by using solar panels, save water and improve working conditions for their employers.
Thus switching to solar power energy is a win-win. Not only will it decrease the costs for farmers, it can also play a significant role in decreasing energy costs and helping to reduce climate change.