How Agrivoltaic Farming Promotes Renewable Agriculture

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Can fields of crops and solar panels work hand in hand, nurturing both our food supply and our planet’s green energy needs?

In the pursuit of a sustainable future, agriculture and renewable energy have come together to create an innovation called agrivoltaic farming. This smart approach combines traditional farming with solar panels, allowing crops and clean energy to thrive side by side. From enhanced land use efficiency and improved crop yields to water conservation and localised energy production. This is the promise of agrivoltaic farming – a transformative solution that brings hope for a greener, more resilient world.

What is Agrivoltaic Farming?

Agrivoltaic farming, also known as agrivoltaics, agrovoltaics, sun sharing or agrophotovoltaics, is the practice of integrating solar photovoltaic (PV) systems with agricultural activities. It uses  agricultural land for both growing crops and producing solar energy in order to boost total productivity and farmers’ revenue. 

Agrivoltaic systems support multiple harvests and promote environmental sustainability by reducing the carbon footprint and conserving natural resources. They offer economic benefits by diversifying farmers’ income streams. 

The importance of renewable agriculture

Traditional agriculture is facing many challenges, such as land scarcity, water shortages and climate change. To overcome some of these climate obstacles, it is crucial to focus on more sustainable and agricultural practices. With the increasing demand for more resources in the overpopulated world it is important that we start to think of alternative ways to produce food.

In comparison to conventional farming practices that rely on fossil fuels and extensive water usage, strain our environment and deplete precious natural resources, renewable agriculture offers a sustainable alternative, a path that embraces innovation and eco-consciousness.

Aerial view on the combine working on the large wheat field

“The potential for Agri-PV in the EU is immense: if Agri-PV were deployed on only 1% of Europe’s arable land, its technical capacity would be over 700 GW.”

SolarPower Europe

Benefits of agrivoltaic farming

By harnessing the power of renewable energy sources, optimising water usage, and adopting climate-resilient farming techniques, we can:

  • safeguard our future food supply
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • conserve land and water resources
  • mitigate the effects of climate change by providing shade and reducing temperature fluctuations for crops
  • nurture a planet capable of sustaining generations 

The symbiotic world of agrivoltaic farming

Agrivoltaic systems (AVS) present a symbiotic strategy for combining the production of food and renewable, sustainable electricity. In other words, agrivoltaic farming embodies a symbiotic relationship as solar panels and crops mutually enhance each other’s performance.

The combination of renewable energy production with sustainable agriculture creates a more resilient and eco-friendly farming ecosystem. Solar panels serve two purposes: generating electricity to power the farm’s electric tractors, equipment, and precision agriculture technologies, all while providing shade to protect and nurture the crops.

Installation methods

The solar panels provide protection from extreme weather conditions and reduce water evaporation from the soil, leading to water conservation. Meanwhile, they generate clean electricity that can power agricultural operations and be fed back into the grid. 

In agriculture applications, solar panels are installed above agricultural fields, converting sunlight into electricity. Shade-tolerant or semi-shade crops are carefully chosen to grow beneath the panels, benefiting from the filtered sunlight and microclimate created by the shade. 

There are also more advanced systems or technologies, which, for instance, can position panels in the ideal spot so they receive maximum sunlight. Some companies try to use different technologies, for instance, a Swiss start-up called Insolight based its ‘large-scale pilot project’ on optic micro-tracking technology, which facilitates a dynamic passage of light during electricity generation. It consists of innovative translucent solar modules which enable farmers to control the amount of light that goes through their crops. That way they can achieve an optimal plant photosynthesis over the year.

Agrivoltaics in different regions

As per World Economic Forum, agrivoltaic systems in East Africa are revolutionising farming practices by enabling farmers to utilise previously deemed unviable land effectively. For instance in Kenya, an innovative agrivoltaic farming project employs solar panels suspended several metres above the ground, creating gaps in between. This arrangement offers shade to vegetables, protecting them from heat stress and water loss.

Rural farmers can now cultivate a wider variety of higher-value crops by using the power of the sun twice, achieving both sustainable energy generation and improved agricultural outcomes. Read more about rural communities and how they are embracing smart agriculture here.


Europe doesn’t fall much behind East Africa in terms of the focus on agri-PV solutions. For example, Germany’s AgrarEnergie GmbH has successfully launched an innovative agrivoltaic project in Hallertau, near Munich, Bavaria. With an investment of €1.5 million, the project combines solar energy generation with the cultivation of hops. Covering an extensive area of 1.3 hectares, the agrivoltaic system is designed to produce sufficient solar power to meet the needs of approximately 200 households.

To protect the valuable hop plants from excessive sunlight and hail, the company installed the photovoltaic system on sturdy steel masts. This setup not only shields the crops but also reduces water evaporation. Moreover, the solar panels serve as a supportive structure for the hop plants, exemplifying the seamless integration of clean energy generation with agricultural practices.

Also according to the new regulations, in the near future, farmers in France will only be permitted to refer to their work as “agrivoltaics” if the solar panels in some way increase their agricultural output. Poland is set to build its first agrivoltaic farm by 2024, as per Gazeta Wyborcza. Whereas in Sweden, Malardalen University’s Agrivoltaic team won the Solenergipriset for their research project that explores the potential for integrating solar cells with cultivation on agricultural land. 

Future of agrivoltaic farming

As we witness agrivoltaic projects thrive in different parts of the world, it becomes evident that this symbiotic relationship between solar panels and crops can significantly transform the landscape of agriculture. Agrivoltaic systems are proving their potential to revolutionise the way we cultivate our food and harness clean energy. By maximising the advantages of renewable energy generation and optimising crop growth, agrivoltaic farming showcases a harmonious convergence of innovation and ecological care.

Explore the solar power range of products, including solar cells and power systems, available to buy from Distrelec, and contribute to a sustainable future.

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