If you have ever owned a trampoline, you may have noticed how the grass underneath it grows tall and lush. This is because crops, including grasses, thrive when shielded from direct sunlight. Scientists in the field of solar photovoltaic technology have been experimenting with the concept of agrivoltaic farming, which involves using solar panels to shade large crop lands. This practice is gaining ground in Canada, a leading agricultural nation with food export goals of $75 billion by 2025.
Agrivoltaic farming offers a host of benefits, such as renewable electricity generation, decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and increased crop yield. Studies have shown that partial shade from solar panels can increase the yield of crops like corn, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, wheat, and pasture grass. The microclimate created underneath the solar panels conserves water and protects plants from excess sun, wind, hail, and soil erosion. This makes it possible to produce more food per acre, which could bring down food prices.
Around the world, the agricultural industries in Europe, Asia, and the United States have been expanding their agrivoltaic farms with enthusiastic public support. In Europe, solar panels are placed over different types of crops, including fruit trees. In China, agrivoltaics is used to reverse desertification. In the United States, surveys show that rural residents are in favor of implementing solar development in their communities if it integrates farming.
Agrivoltaics has mainly been used on conventional solar farms and used by shepherds and their flocks in Canada. However, to remain competitive with other agriculture-producing nations, Canada needs to start large-scale agriculture in the shadow of solar panels. This would enable the production of numerous crops that have been proven to increase yield when covered, such as broccoli, celery, peppers, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and wheat. Implementing agrivoltaics in Canada could completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels, helping the nation to honor its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the non-emitting share of electricity generation to 90% by 2030.
Despite the numerous benefits of agrivoltaic farming, there are some barriers to its distribution in Canada. Regulations in some provinces, such as Ontario and Alberta, are holding back the installation of solar panels in farming areas. Additionally, the capital costs are high, making it difficult for farmers to implement large agrivoltaic systems on their own. Governments and investors will need to find new financing models and partnerships to help make this concept a reality.
In conclusion, agrivoltaic farming has the potential to revolutionize the agricultural and energy sectors in Canada. It offers a way to increase crop yields while generating renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With some tweaks to regulations and financing models, we could see this innovative concept become a staple in Canadian farming.