Growing Food Under Solar Panels: How Agrivoltaics Could Create Sustainable Crops

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2018 - 1:34pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2018 - 6:05pm

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Greg Barron-Gafford/University of Arizona
The agrivoltaics installation at UA's Biosphere 2.

As our climate continues to warm here in the desert, sustainably growing food could become a serious challenge.

Researchers at the University of Arizona are working to find new ways to approach agriculture and they’ve come up with one that’s garnering some attention. Their experiment in agrivoltaics was recently named a finalist in Fast Company's World Changing Ideas Awards.

But what is agrivoltaics?

“It’s just a mashup of agriculture and photovoltaics, or solar panels,” said Greg Barron-Gafford, lead researcher and professor of biogeography and ecosystem science at UA.

Picture rows and rows of crops growing underneath a canopy of solar panels. The obvious question is how can these plants possibly grow without direct sunlight?

But Barron-Gafford and his researchers found that they could actually grow more food underneath these solar panels where they couldn’t get direct sunlight.

So, in true Arizona fashion, they started with a salsa garden. Barron-Gafford joined The Show to discuss their results.

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