During the past two years, momentum has built rapidly for agri-photovoltaic (APV), the technology that allows agricultural land to be used simultaneously for growing crops and generating solar power.
The concept is simple: semi or non transparent solar arrays, with or without tracers, are installed on platforms above the crops, high enough that farmers can carry out their ongoing agricultural activities. Recent studies assert that installation of APV on 1% of the world’s arable land could fill world needs for electricity.
While no utility-scale installations have been carried out to date, tests in a variety of regions have provided initial data supporting the approach’s theoretical advantages:
- Improving agriculture: When deployed in areas of extreme heat, the shade produced by the solar arrays reduces water consumption and protects the crops from over-exposure. When deployed in areas of extreme cold, the platform can reduces frostbite and reduces the impact of hail, wind and heavy rain.
- Improving power generation: Contrary to popular thought, solar power generation actually improves when temperatures remain temperate. In hot/dry climates, installation of solar panels within irrigated fields helps optimize their production.
- Improving land use: a major challenge facing proponents of solar power is the massive amount of land needed for utility-scale power generation, and the distance between these land tracts and the cities that will use the power generated. APV might increase the usage of agricultural land, much of which is already located close to metropolitan centers.
- Providing income for independent farmers: small farmers throughout the world face fundamental challenges to stay in business. APV offers them the potential to expand the income-generating provision of their land without significantly changes to their farming activities. Note: APV installations are less expensive and provide more power-generating capability than rooftop PV systems.
To achieve the agri-photovoltaics (APV) promise, it is necessary to scale up installations and to spread awareness and knowledge throughout the world. That will require overcoming of multiple challenges, ranging from fine-tuning of underlying technologies to optimizing installation and operational technologies, while generating extensive data on APV impact on crops and farming methods.
To facilitate and accelerate this process, Migal Research Institute is now launching its APV Knowledge Center.
Migal is uniquely qualified for this initiative due to its recognition throughout the world as an innovator of advanced applied agricultural technology, together with its location in Israel, the pioneer of solar energy generation. The Migal’s APV Knowledge Center is a natural outgrowth of Migal’s own extensive research in orchards, which is currently being used in farms growing avocados, bananas, grapes, kiwis and variety of deciduous trees, while using different shading methods to reduce radiation, stress and pests in the orchard.
Migal’s APV Knowledge Center is bringing together experts with experience in research of all aspects of plant sciences and crops. Besides continuing to advance the art via its own research, the APV Knowledge Center is offering consulting and research services across all phases of APV projects.
APV in Israel
- Israel’s current installed solar generation capability is ~2.9 GW, representing approximately 7% of the country’s total electricity consumption.
- The Israeli government forecasts that the country’s electricity demand will reach ~12 GW in 2030.
- According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, by 2030, utility-scale solar could cover almost 2 million acres of land in the United States.
Migal R&D North - Knowledge and Innovative Technology Center for the Orchard Sector in the Context of PV Integrated Cultivation
We will work together in full cooperation with the farmers, the agronomiy consultants and all of the professionals necessary.
CALL FOR of the Israeli Ministry of Energy:
- A unique collaboration between the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Agriculture has spawned a research program to promote energy production in agriculture.
- This is the first time a country has decided to conduct research in APV at the national level.
Apply for submission of preliminary plans for the dual use of renewable energies in agricultural areas. For more information in Hebrew: https://www.gov.il/he/departments/publications/reports/agro_voltai
In deciduous orchards in general and specifically with apples, it was found that it is beneficial to cover the orchard with netting in order to reduce solar damage and improve the quality of the fruit. Today, in many orchards netting is used to reduce sun damage. The netting is a challenge for colorful fruit since they need short exposure to the sun during ripening in order to obtain their color. Additionally, in deciduous orchards, in the winter months there is no foliage and therefore one must direct the solar panels so that they cover most of the area for maximum harnessing of the winter sun. The integration of solar panels in deciduous orchards could therefore lead to improvements in yield quality and profitability.
Vineyard and grape orchards typically have relatively less foliage and are therefore extremely suitable for coverage with solar panels. At the same time, in vineyards the crop is for the most part industrial and space must be left for the passage of double row sprayers and harvesters. Therefore it appears that a solar structure will hurt the profitability of the vineyard. In table grape orchards on the other hand, the work is manual and an investigation of solar panels with a design adapted to expose the bunches to light under shade has great potential.
The Kiwi is a deciduous strain, whose cultivation is limited to the high areas in the north of the country, due to the need for cold environment. Moreover, the Kiwi is a vine and therefore sensitive to wind, but the use of shade netting to provide a solution for these problems hinders the work of bees and pollination and therefore reduces crop yield. We believe that solar panels will also provide a solution for the wind problem, and will be beneficial for the water regimen without affecting pollination.
Our accumulated experience and the Collaborations we create with companies engaged in agrovoltaic ventures, give us the ability, the knowledge and the experience to launch agrovoltaic pilot ventures and assist with the definition of specifications.
The global seaweed industry annually produces over 30 million tons of algae with a total value of over $ 10 billion and is expected to double by January 2030.
The Gracilaria algae, for example, is being used mainly to produce food agar, but also as a fresh and dry edible vegetables as a source of protein, for creating an ingredient for the cosmetics industry, or as sunscreens. It has also been found that Gracilaria has biological-medical activity such as antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral substance.
One of the ideas for improving algae growth is to create an array of solar panels that will meet the increased demand for alternative protein. Furthermore, changing the light conditions by using the solar panels has the potential to enrich the amount of protein in the algae and its bio-active compounds.
Following the move in the banana sector to cultivation under netting providing a shading factor of 10%, as a means of protection against wind damage, in the year 2000 we saw a rise in yields along with savings of irrigation water. In recent years we have been testing netting with a shading factor of 30% and with unique physical properties. We found that these nets have the potential to provide significant savings of irrigation water with significantly increased yield.
The findings of this research and our expertise in this sector of agriculture have enabled us to conduct a comprehensive study of the ramifications of installing solar panels and the effect on the physiology of the banana plant, growth factors, flowering and yields.
Worldwide avocado production in 2017 stood at about 6 million tons over 5.9 million dunams. Despite the attractive qualities of this crop, avocados are especially sensitive to extreme climate damage that harms growth and as a result significantly impacts growers’ profits. As part of our comprehensive work in this sector, we examined the use of shade netting above the tree foliage. These shading nets provided significant protection from frost and cold, and we have initial evidence of their efficiency in preventing damage due to extreme heat. Therefore, our assessment is that the installation of solar panels over avocado orchards could assist in the efforts to cope with extreme climate damage, while providing optimal production of electricity.
Contact Block - agrivoltaics
We invite you to contact us to hear more about our concept and technology, to brainstorm together about the services we can offer for your initiative, or to join our team.
For more information:
Dr. Navot Galpaz
Subtropic crops, bananas, mango
Dr. Lior Rubinovich
Subtropical crops: avocado
Field crops: quinoa
Dr. Omer Crane
Grapevine and deciduous fruit trees
Prof. Raffi Stern
Subtropical crops: lychee, kiwi and pinnapple
Dr. Mery Dafny-Yelin
Dr. Aviv Asher
M.Sc. Zlil Baras
APV Product Coordinator