Harvesting Sunshine and Crops: The Rise of Agrovoltaics in Australia

Solar energy is one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources in Australia, with solar farms cropping up across the country. However, getting these projects off the ground can be a challenging process, as communities often push back against large-scale solar installations in their neighbourhoods. But what if solar farms could also benefit local agriculture and food production? This is where agrovoltaics comes in.

Agrovoltaics refers to the practice of integrating agriculture and solar energy generation on the same piece of land. The concept involves placing solar panels over crops, creating a dual use of land that not only generates renewable energy but also supports food production. The shading effect of the panels can even improve the growing conditions for certain crops, while the solar panels themselves provide additional income to farmers and landowners.

For developers, agrovoltaics offers a unique opportunity to win the support of local communities by highlighting the benefits to agriculture and food production. By working with local farmers and landowners, developers can address some of the common concerns about large-scale solar installations, such as land use and impact on local agriculture.

One example of agrovoltaics in action is the Lismore Solar Farm in New South Wales, which covers over 90 hectares of land and generates up to 40 MW of electricity. The project also features a section dedicated to agrovoltaics, where crops are grown beneath the solar panels. This not only provides additional income for the local community but also helps to mitigate the visual impact of the solar farm and demonstrate the positive impact of renewable energy on local agriculture.

Another example is the Manildra Solar Farm in New South Wales, which features a 4.5MW solar farm alongside a livestock feedlot. The shading effect of the solar panels provides a cooler environment for the cattle, while the panels themselves generate clean energy for the local community.

Agrovoltaics also has the potential to help Australia reach its renewable energy targets and reduce its carbon emissions. By unlocking under utilised and neglected land, agrovoltaics can increase the amount of renewable energy generated in the country and help to address the impacts of climate change.

It’s not just the environment that benefits from agrovoltaics, but also the local communities and farmers themselves. By integrating renewable energy generation with agriculture, agrovoltaics provides a new source of income for local communities and helps to support the future of Australian agriculture.

Agrovoltaics is a win-win solution for solar developers, farmers, and local communities. By blending solar energy generation with agriculture, agrovoltaics offers a unique opportunity to generate renewable energy, support food production, and win the support of local communities. It’s time for Australia to harness the power of the sun and the land, and reap the benefits of agrovoltaics.