New report highlights potential of Aussie ‘agrisolar’

Sheep graze in front of solar panels (new zealand)
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A new report says Australia has enormous potential for grazing sheep and growing fruits and vegetables under solar panels, but better planning, more research and targeted government policy is needed to make these options work for local farmers.

Agrivoltaics—also referred to as ‘agrisolar’—refers to co-locating agricultural production systems with solar development.

Related article: Growing crops under solar panels: agrivoltaics takes off

Co-locating our food and energy systems on developed land presents a promising pathway for farmers, solar developers and governments, provided it is well planned and executed.

The report, Pursuing an Agrivoltaic future in Australia, gathered insights from farmers, government representatives, consultants, researchers, and solar developers, on the challenges and opportunities of agriculture and solar developments. EnergyCo was a key partner in the delivery of two workshops contributing to the knowledge gathering process.

The authors found agrivoltaic adoption has been slow, because of knowledge gaps, technical and economic impediments, poor planning, and a lack of clear policy guidance at development stage.

Karin Stark, director of Farm Renewables Consulting and co-author of the report, said, “I found there was considerable optimism for the feasibility of agrivoltaics in Australia, but change is required to ensure future solar developments are undertaken in a way that guarantees successful outcomes.”

“International studies have highlighted several benefits associated with solar over crops, such as enhanced yields in the case of certain produce like berries, tomatoes and leafy greens.

“Solar over vineyards has also demonstrated benefits to the sugar and alcohol content of grapes given the fruit’s sensitivity to hot weather. Overseas research has indicated advantages including increased soil moisture, reduced irrigation demands, protection from excessive heat, and safeguarding against frost and hail damage.”

Andrew Bomm, consultant with Progressive Agriculture and co-author of the report, said, “Solar grazing can have clear economic benefits for both solar developers and graziers, and play an important role in achieving community support for large scale solar development in rural areas.

Related article: Tindo and UNSW develop AgriPV solar panels

“One key insight that came out loud and clear was that solar grazing systems require adequate planning and design prior to construction to avoid major problems later.”

The report underscored the need for research and demonstration sites, supportive policy, and knowledge sharing to pave the way for adoption of agrivoltaics in Australia on a significant scale.

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