People are increasingly trying to grow both food and clean energy on the same land to help meet the challenges of climate change, drought and a growing global population that just topped 8 billion. This effort includes agrivoltaics, in which crops are grown under the shade of solar panels, ideally with less water.
Now scientists from the University of California, Davis, are investigating how to better harvest the sun — and its optimal light spectrum — to make agrivoltaic systems more efficient in arid agricultural regions like California.
Their study [wiley.com], published in Earth's Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, found that the red part of the light spectrum is more efficient for growing plants, while the blue part of the spectrum is better used for solar production.
[...] "Today's solar panels take all the light and try to make the best of it. But what if a new generation of photovoltaics could take the blue light for clean energy and pass the red light onto the crops, where it is most efficient for photosynthesis?"
[...] "We cannot feed 2 billion more people in 30 years by being just a little more water-efficient and continuing as we do," Abou Najm said. "We need something transformative, not incremental. If we treat the sun as a resource, we can work with shade and generate electricity while producing crops underneath. Kilowatt hours become a secondary crop you can harvest."
Matteo Camporese, Majdi Abou Najm, Not All Light Spectra Were Created Equal: Can We Harvest Light for Optimum Food-Energy Co-Generation? [open], Earth's Future, 10, 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2022EF002900 [doi.org]