Solar power efficiency can be boosted using agricultural land

Posted Aug 10, 2019 by Tim Sandle
New research finds that installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency. This is seen as the key to fulfilling future global electric energy demand.
File photo: The 150 MW Andasol solar power station is a commercial parabolic trough solar thermal po...
File photo: The 150 MW Andasol solar power station is a commercial parabolic trough solar thermal power plant, located in Spain. The Andasol plant uses tanks of molten salt to store solar energy so that it can continue generating electricity even when the sun isn't shining.
New research from Oregon State University has discovered that even if less than 1 percent of the world's agricultural land is handed over to host solar panels, this would be sufficient to fulfill global electric energy demand. This idea of co-developing the same area of land for solar photovoltaic power and for conventional agriculture is termed agrivoltaics.
The concept of agrivoltaics has been implemented in parts Japan, beginning in 2004, followed by some expansion into Asia and Europe. The application has yet to take off in North America in a significant way. However, Tesla has shown an interest and has installed five large grid-tied, ground-mounted solar electric arrays on agricultural lands within Oregon.
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Discussing the potential of agrivoltaics on a truly global scale, lead researcher Chad Higgins states: "Our results indicate that there's a huge potential for solar and agriculture to work together to provide reliable energy...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 solar energy on Earth."
To draw the assumption about the ability of agrivoltaics to meet global energy demand, Professor Higgins and his team constructed model with assessed 17 classes of globally accepted land cover, such as croplands, mixed forests, urban and savanna, and different forms of scalar energy generation.
The research has been reported to the journal Nature Scientific Reports, and the research paper is headed "Solar PV Power Potential is Greatest Over Croplands."
In related solar energy news, a new perovskite material shows early promise as an alternative to silicon. The material is called CsPbI3, which is an inorganic perovskite and it has been found to be of a high efficiency and low cost. This stable material efficiently creates electricity and it could challenge silicon in terms of developing future solar panels, according to researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology.