Solar panels often take up a lot of real estate that is also optimal for growing crops (flat land with access to lots of sunlight). Instead of having panels compete with plants, there is a growing field called agrivoltaics that studies how solar power and agriculture can exist together and even benefit from each other.
Research from agronomists and energy experts from Chonnam National University in South Korea has further deepened our understanding of how agrivoltaic farming could be optimized by pinpointing a certain vegetable that thrives in the shade of the panels: broccoli.
The broccoli is always greener on the other side (of the solar panel)
The study’s findings demonstrate that the shade offered by the solar panels helps make broccoli a deeper shade of green. This makes the vegetable more attractive for grocery stores and consumers, which helps generate more income for farmers.
However, the most significant financial benefits come from energy production. Farmers that combined solar panels with their broccoli crops remarkably boosted their income. In fact, income from solar power was approximately 10 times the income from broccoli, showing that farmers already growing broccoli but haven’t installed solar panels are missing out on great financial gains.
Lead analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, Jordan Macknick, says that the findings, published in the journal Agronomy, are “a great case study,” and hopes that it will encourage more research in other places and with a wider variety of crops.