The vulnerabilities of our food, energy and water systems to projected climatic change make building resilience in renewable energy and food production a fundamental challenge. We investigate a novel approach to solve this problem by creating a hybrid of colocated agriculture and solar photovoltaic (PV) infrastructure. We take an integrative approach—monitoring microclimatic conditions, PV panel temperature, soil moisture and irrigation water use, plant ecophysiological function and plant biomass production within this ‘agrivoltaics’ ecosystem and in traditional PV installations and agricultural settings to quantify trade-offs. We find that shading by the PV panels provides multiple additive and synergistic benefits, including reduced plant drought stress, greater food production and reduced PV panel heat stress. The results presented here provide a foundation and motivation for future explorations towards the resilience of food and energy systems under the future projected increased environmental stress involving heat and drought.
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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on request.
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This research and data were supported by (1) the Water, Environmental, and Energy Solutions initiative at the University of Arizona; (2) the Accelerate For Success Grants Program at the University of Arizona; (3) NSF EAR No. 1659546, REU Site: Earth Systems Research for Environmental Solutions at Biosphere 2; and (4) the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab through No. REJ-7-70227, Meeting SunShot Cost and Deployment Targets through Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment programme. The authors thank J. Adams and the Biosphere 2 team for their assistance in maintenance of the Biosphere 2 Agrivoltaics Learning Lab.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Nature Sustainability (2019)