Agrivoltaic systems comprise of substructure-mounted solar panels and crops. These can be reconfigured in the form of agrivoltaic greenhouses, by attaching the panels to roofs instead of substructures. The resulting unit alongside the land on which it is installed constitute an agrivoltaic farm..
This article discusses agrivoltaic system, panels, crops, greenhouse, and farms, as outlined below;
Agrivoltaic System and Components
Agrivoltaic system (AVS) is an assemblage of all the basic components and equipment required to implement agrivoltaic farming.
This is because it combines the technology of renewable energy development with the science of sustainable farming, and attempts to unify these two elements in order to create a singular, robust ecosystem.
Components of agrivoltaic systems are mostly solar PV panels, substructure, and crops, although other featured like spatial configuration, design, electricity conduction and energy management, sustainable irrigation, energy storage units can also be classified as components of an agrivoltaic system.
Agrivoltaic panels are made from solar photovoltaic cells, which could be conventional silicon cells or organic solar cells, among other types.
They are one of the most important parts of an agrivoltaic system, whose main function is electricity generation by solar energy conversion.
Since the agrivoltaic panels have significant surface area, they tend to block direct contact of the soil and crops in a farm, with sunlight.
As a result, it is recommendable for agrivoltaic farming to be practiced with a distinct group of crops that are shade-tolerant, and do not necessarily require intense or direct sunlight for their growth .
To provide some direct sunlight to crops in an agrivoltaic farm, the panels are usually arranged in regular, repeating arrays that include interspacing.
Other factors considered when arranging agrivoltaic solar panels are crop growth patterns, spatial coverage, and irrigation requirements.
Substructures are skeletal elements that form the base or foundation on which all or most agrivoltaic system components are mounted. They generally determine the configuration of agrivoltaic panels in any given scenario.
Agrivoltaic crops basically grow underneath an array of agrivoltaic panels.
This means that they must be selected based on their ability to survive and thrive under such conditions.
Crops that work best with agrivoltaic systems are of low-nutrient and sunlight demand, and include mainly vegetable crops like lettuce, zucchini and spinach .
Water conservation is another factor that is considered when selecting agrivoltaic crops.
Due to the configuration of agrivoltaic systems, it is generally recommendable for water supply through irrigation, to be minimized.
Agrivoltaic systems may even perform better in situations where the rate of precipitation is not intense or excessive.
An agrivoltaic greenhouse is an innovative configuration whereby solar panels are attached to the roof of an agricultural greenhouse, to constitute a unified agri-photovoltaic (APV) unit.
Agrivoltaic greenhouses may occur as part of a larger agrivoltaic system, or as distinctive, independent systems of their own.
The advantage of agrivoltaic greenhouses is their ability to integrate solar-based electricity generation with crop farming while allowing sufficient light and water to be supplied to crops.
However, it has limitations such as cost, and inappropriateness for large-scale agrivoltaic operations.
Agrivoltaic farms are simply farms in which agrivoltaic systems and processes occur.
Alternatively called integrated solar farms, agrivoltaic farms may vary significantly in size and specific use, and are used only in regions where advanced sustainable farming practices are implemented.
Agrivoltaic systems are integrated systems comprising of solar and agricultural components that are used simultaneously for electricity and food production.
They are comprised of agrivoltaic panels, crops and greenhouses; which are all situated in agrivoltaic farms.
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3). Toledo, C.; Scognamiglio, A. (2021). “Agrivoltaic Systems Design and Assessment: A Critical Review, and a Descriptive Model towards a Sustainable Landscape Vision (Three-Dimensional Agrivoltaic Patterns).” Sustainability 13(12):6871. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126871. (Accessed 1 January 2023).