Meat & Livestock News

Exploring Agrivoltaics: Integrating Solar Panels with Agriculture in Australia

farmers tractor plowing, spring work on field and solar panel with cloudly sky

The Potential of Agri Voltaics in Australia

Australia holds significant potential for combining solar panel installations with traditional farming practices, a concept known as agri voltaics or ‘agrisolar’. This innovative approach, which involves co-locating agricultural production systems with solar development, offers a promising pathway for farmers, solar developers, and governments.

However, the successful implementation of agri voltaics requires careful planning, further research, and targeted government policy.

Insights from the ‘Pursuing an Agrivoltaic Future in Australia’ Report

The report, titled ‘Pursuing an Agrivoltaic Future in Australia’, compiled by Farm Renewables Consulting and Progressive Agriculture, highlights the opportunities and challenges of integrating agriculture with solar developments.

The report is a culmination of insights from various stakeholders, including farmers, government representatives, consultants, researchers, and solar developers. EnergyCo played a crucial role in facilitating workshops that contributed to this knowledge-gathering process.

Despite the optimism surrounding the feasibility of agri voltaics in Australia, the report identifies several barriers to its widespread adoption. These include knowledge gaps, technical and economic challenges, poor planning, and a lack of clear policy guidance at the development stage.

Benefits and Opportunities of Agri Voltaics

Karin Stark, director of Farm Renewables Consulting and co-author of the report, notes that international studies have shown multiple benefits of placing solar panels over crops. These benefits include enhanced yields for certain produce like berries, tomatoes, and leafy greens, and improved sugar and alcohol content in grapes due to protection from excessive heat.

Additionally, agrivoltaics can increase soil moisture, reduce irrigation demands, and protect crops from extreme weather conditions like frost and hail damage. Andrew Bomm, a consultant at Progressive Agriculture and co-author of the report, emphasises that solar grazing can offer economic benefits for both solar developers and graziers. It can also garner community support for large-scale solar development in rural areas.

Recommendations for Agrivoltaic Adoption

The report underscores the need for research and demonstration sites, supportive policy, and knowledge sharing to facilitate the adoption of agri voltaics in Australia on a significant scale. Key policy recommendations include:

  • The Australian government should fund the development of best practice guidelines for developers, operators, and farmers.
  • Collaboration between the government and the renewables industry to invest in ongoing research into agrivoltaics, tailored to different regions and farming systems such as grazing, viticulture, and horticulture.
  • Development of a coherent framework of carbon and biodiversity incentives to encourage best practice adoption in both broadacre (grazing) and horticultural systems.
  • An intergovernmental agreement between Commonwealth and state governments to ensure a consistent framework across Energy and Agricultural agencies.