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Agrophotovoltaic systems: applications, challenges, and opportunities. A review

  • Axel WeselekEmail author
  • Andrea Ehmann
  • Sabine Zikeli
  • Iris Lewandowski
  • Stephan Schindele
  • Petra Högy
Review Article

Abstract

The expansion of renewable energies aims at meeting the global energy demand while replacing fossil fuels. However, it requires large areas of land. At the same time, food security is threatened by the impacts of climate change and a growing world population. This has led to increasing competition for limited land resources. In this context, the combination of photovoltaics and plant production — often referred to as agrophotovoltaic (APV) or agrivoltaic systems — has been suggested as an opportunity for the synergistic combination of renewable energy and food production. Although this technology has already been applied in various commercial projects, its practicability and impact on crop production have hardly been investigated. In this review, we give a short summary of the current state of the art and prospective opportunities for the application of APV systems. In addition, we discuss microclimatic alterations and the resulting impacts of APV on crop production. Our main findings are that (1) crop cultivation underneath APV can lead to declining crop yields as solar radiation is expected to be reduced by about one third underneath the panels. However, microclimatic heterogeneities and their impact on crop yields are missing reference and thus, remain uncertain. (2) Through combined energy and crop production, APV can increase land productivity by up to 70%. (3) Given the impacts of climate change and conditions in arid climates, potential benefits are likely for crop production through additional shading and observed improvements of water productivity. (4) In addition, APV enhances the economic value of farming and can contribute to decentralized, off-grid electrification in developing and rural areas, thus further improving agricultural productivity. As such, APV can be a valuable technical approach for more sustainable agriculture, helping to meet current and prospective needs of energy and food production and simultaneously sparing land resources.

Keywords

Agrophotovoltaic Agrivoltaic Photovoltaics Crop production Microclimate Agricultural yields 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Manuscript was written within the APV-RESOLA project that received funding from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) under grant no. 033L098G. Thanks to Nicole Gaudet for revising the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Ecology and Ecotoxicology, Institute of Landscape and Plant EcologyUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Department of Biobased Products and Energy Crops, Institute of Crop ScienceUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  3. 3.Center for Organic FarmingUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  4. 4.Division Photovoltaics, Group PV Power PlantsFraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISEFreiburgGermany

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