The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a $10 million grant to a University of Illinois (UI) led team of researchers to study whether crops and solar panels can co-exist and help farmers’ yields, energy production and profit.
Agrivoltaics is a practice using the same land for solar panels and agriculture. The UI led project received the monies from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture systems program. Researchers will also create the agrivoltaic arrays at Colorado State University and the University of Arizona.
UI lead investigator is Madhu Khanna, from the UI Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment. Khanna says with the “increasing profitability of solar panels and the energy they produce, crops are in direct competition for land space with unimpeded sunlight.”
The four-year project will investigate how different crops succeed with different panel patterns. Khanna says the group will analyze how the various crops yields change based on the different environments.
The first planting will occur in spring 2022 as crops are planted between the rows of panels at the UI’s Solar Farm 2.0.